Just one month into his undergraduate career at Iowa State University, Tyler Bauman had to interrupt his stay in Ames for a more exotic locale.
Bauman, who joined the U.S. Army Reserves while in high school, was deployed to Kuwait during the start of the Second Gulf War. He spent the next 14 months working at an inventory container yard at a Kuwait seaport.
It was, for Bauman, the perfect opportunity to become grounded in his academic pursuits.
“I could tell I was going to fail out of college,” said Bauman, now a fourth year veterinary medicine student at Iowa State. “I couldn’t focus and this deployment gave me a maturity I was lacking. When I returned to Iowa State I was able to focus.”
For Bauman, the months he spent in Kuwait weren’t the only interruptions he saw in his education pursuits. In 2005-06, he volunteered for a tour in Iraq. He was part of a gun truck team that escorted VIPs around the country.
This deployment was significantly different than the time he spent in Kuwait. While he had to wear protective gear during SCUD missile attacks, the Iraq tour was far more dangerous.
“There was a suicide car bomb our first mission out and our last mission we experienced a roadside bomb,” Bauman said. “And there were lots more incidents in between.
“Our team got real tight,” he said. “There was a lot of camaraderie with my teammates. I was able to share experiences with those guys you can’t replicate anywhere else.”
After two interruptions, Bauman returned to Iowa State and settled down to finish his animal science major. At the same time, he joined Army ROTC and was commissioned as a second lieutenant when he graduated in 2010.
Bauman was accepted into Iowa State’s veterinary medicine program and started classes there but soon volunteered for a return deployment to Kuwait during his second year in vet school. This time he went as an officer with the 949th Vet Med detachment out of Ames.
“I was a little burned out taking classes and the timing worked out well,” he says of the yearlong deployment.
There were challenges. His second child was born while he was overseas. Instead of escorting VIPs around Iraq or unloading cargo ships, Bauman’s unit worked primarily on food inspection and care of military working dogs.
“It was very rewarding,” he said. “Regardless of whether it is peace time or combat, this work makes you feel like you’re doing a greater good.”
Bauman will graduate from Iowa State next spring and hopes to become a swine veterinarian. But one thing is for certain. He plans to stay in the Army Reserves.
“I’m a better leader, a better student and I will hopefully be a better veterinarian because of my military experience,” he said.
And would he volunteer to go back to Iraq or Kuwait?
“Absolutely, if the cause is right. I feel strongly about what we are doing over there. I would definitely go on another deployment.”