University of Colorado senior Bradley Enget came to college with quite a bit of life experience.
Enget has been in the Army for eight years, was deployed to Iraq twice, has been injured on the job, endured months of intensive recovery and started a family — all before his 27th birthday.
Friday Enget, a cadet of CU’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, will add another accomplishment to his life list: college graduation.
But unlike most traditional students, commencement is just another step in the life of Enget.
“It’s lacking some of the luster, I think,” Enget said. “I’ve graduated from so many different Army courses that it’s nothing new. I’m always looking forward to the next thing.”
Enget said he’s participated in about 10 other commencement ceremonies since graduating from high school in 2003 — most of them for Army training.
And by the end of the day Friday, Enget will have three more under his belt after a psychology ceremony Thursday night, today’s commencement and Army commissioning.
Enget’s high achievements have become as familiar to his family, too.
“When he was young, he would set out to do something and he kept working at it until he finished,” said Jerome Enget, Bradley’s dad. “Graduation is a regular event for us now, but each time is exciting because he always does so much more.”
But it’s not just the repetitive concept that has the younger Enget going through the motions of graduation this week. He was the leader of an Explosive Ordinance Disposal team in Iraq before taking a break to come to CU.
“You know that guy in the movie ‘Hurt Locker?’ That’s me,” Enget said. “I wore the big, heavy suit and dismantled IEDs and all that.”
Enget was a junior member of an explosives team at 19 years old — during his first deployment to Iraq in September 2004 — until a device exploded in his hand.
Enget lost two fingers on his left hand in the explosion and spent nearly six months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“I broke several bones in my hand, so they had it in a cast that had to be set just right,” Enget said. “Then, there was several months of rehabilitation before I could even be considered for duty again.”
Enget eventually returned to his unit in Louisiana for further training and then was deployed to Iraq again in Sept. 2006, as an explosives team leader. He was stationed there until he was accepted into the Green to Gold Program, which gave him a full-ride scholarship to the school of his choice.
Enget entered CU as a freshman in August 2007, at age 22, and has been making an impression ever since.
“I would say, Cadet Enget is an exceptional cadet,” said Lt. Col. John Toth, director of CU’s Army ROTC program. “He is the No. 1 cadet in our battalion.”
Toth said Enget exudes reliability and dependability unlike any other student in the program. These are traits Toth said he hopes younger cadets will learn by Enget’s example.
“These students with military experience are generally more mature,” Toth said. “He understands what his responsibilities are and what the implications are if he doesn’t meet those. He’s more reliable and more dependable. That comes from having that experience in Iraq, where if he didn’t get things done, bad things could happen.”
Bronson Hilliard, spokesman for the university, said non-traditional students, like Enget, greatly contribute to the experiences of students across campus.
“Non-traditional students — whether veterans, seniors citizens or older students — add to the education of our students in innumerable ways,” Hilliard said. “They’re marvelous examples of living history and add a great dimension of diversity to the campus.”
Enget said his military experience provided him the maturity and drive to continue on his path of becoming an Army officer.
“I wasn’t exactly a typical student,” Enget said. “I had responsibilities, so I didn’t stay out late and party or pull all-night cram sessions.
“When I got to an 8 a.m. class, I had already been up for four hours that morning, working out with the other cadets.”
Though his college experience was different from most, Enget said he always felt comfortable on campus and has few regrets about the path he chose.
“I grew up really fast,” Enget said. “I do sometimes think maybe I should have lived in the dorms my freshman year, but I don’t know if I could have handled a roommate again. And they would all be asking me to buy them beer since I was a 22-year-old freshman.”
Enget will go back to the Army’s Infantry Division after graduating and rejoin his unit in Louisiana this summer.