ETSU recently hired a new Director of Veterans Affairs.
Mark Tipton is a native of Gate City, Virginia, and a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, working in fields like space system operations and nuclear security and operations — performing missile combat crew duties for the Minuteman III and Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missile systems.
“This wasn’t the type of work I was looking at when I was retiring,” Tipton said. “I became aware of it — and my wife doesn’t like me telling this story — but I became aware of it when she found the position searching for jobs online. She showed it to me, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s a perfect job for me.’ So, I applied.”
Tipton’s most recent Air Force position involved inspector general work, a task that required him to deal with allegations of wrongdoing and lawbreaking.
Tipton said his experience guiding and interacting with troops assists him in the everyday workings of his job, but the position also requires him to recognize the individual struggles of veterans who visit his office.
“A lot of the jobs I did in the Air Force were about compliance, interpreting regulations and rules,” Tipton said. “You can teach that type of stuff, but the key of this job is being able to understand veterans’ independence and the issues they have transitioning and then going to school.”
With the exception of deployments, Tipton was stationed in the U.S. during most of his military career.
He and his wife decided to return to this area mainly because they wanted to raise their two daughters, age 10 and eight, in a familiar, friendly environment.
“The people here are different from anywhere else,” Tipton said. “Very, very excited to talk to you, very warm, very welcoming. They’re the kind of people I remember from 20 years ago.”
Tipton said his main goal is to help veterans become more involved in the surrounding community.
“Our goal is to get those veterans who choose to more integrated into the community,” Tipton said. “Identify that they are veterans but at the same time get them involved with the campus community and then the local community. That’s something that we can’t tell someone to do, but we can provide the opportunities and the resources and the events where they can choose to participate.”