By: Jordan Yaniga
Christopher Rolinson’s journey in the Army was the kick start he needed to get out of his hometown life and build who he is today, he said, and it has led him to much success and happiness.
His service led him into the field of communications and eventually to his current Point Park professor of journalism position. It took a while, and some parts of it are unique to his own experience.
Both his grandfather and father served time in the military, but Rolinson said he joined on his own intuition.
He grew up in Freedom, Beaver County, joined the Army at 18, a year after he graduated high school. He started at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for basic training in the middle of winter.
The most challenging obstacle for Rolinson was that he was so young. Figuring out how to be an adult at 18 in the Army was not easy for him. He describes the issues as not having a good sense of self-awareness and still having the high school mindset. “Basic training is something that is supposed to change as it tries to drain out the noise of who you are individual, as a person,” he says. Instead, it created a “cloudy mind” for him as he searched for himself. “Finding this new you in a new world is something so mind challenging,” Rolinson said.
But he made it and moved on.
He was stationed at Ft. Rucker, Ala., from 1992 until 1995
When stationed in the Army he had more than one job at hand. When he was on active duty, he was a communications systems specialist. “Going into that job he had the impression of doing more communications on the radio, but instead it was a mechanics job for fixing radios,” he said. In addition, he had top-secret clearance to hold on to communications keys that were given out to the helicopters. This put him into a Navionics job, and “I spent about three years helping the aviation unit.” Rolinson’s work made the commanders’ jobs a lot less stressful as he controlled communications from the ground.
It was not all a challenge. Rolinson said he loved the job he was doing, and although it was just for his branch of the Army, he said it could be done for any branch. His enjoyment came from the ground while the helicopter units were in the air, and he was helping them, which gave him a sense of ease.
After this service, he switched to the Pennsylvania National Guard, as well as the Army National Guard, based out of Washington, Pa., to finish out his service requirements. He served as a helicopter mechanic for two and a half years.
Rolinson said he knew from his paper route days as a young kid that he wanted to do something in communications. “My father is an amateur radio operator, and that sparked my interest in that field,” This made him comfortable with his position in the military.
Upon returning home Rolinson felt as though he came back a man. He found himself adjusting back to his reality and attending Beaver County Community College for a year, then he finished the rest of his collegiate career at Slippery Rock University. With money now in his pocket from serving his time in the military, he began the chapter of his life that he believes he was meant to do, which was teaching in the field of journalism. He joined Point Park’s faculty and began teaching photojournalism and other courses. And he has been a member of the American Legion for 22 years.
Now 48, he resides in Coraopolis with his wife of 19 years and two sons, 14 and 15. Rolinson earned his master’s degree in journalism at Point Park and a master of fine arts degree from Chatham University.
When asked if he would do it all over again, he said he would do a completely different job. The most challenging obstacle for Rolinson was figuring out to be an adult at 18 in the Army was not easy. He describes it as creating a good sense of self-awareness, as he left the high school mindset at home.
Rolinson believes that “for young people, if you are considering the military, make sure you are listening to your heart and what you feel you need to do that makes you, you,” he said. “Do not listen to others but create your own path in your own way. Do not fall into what others expect you to do.” Plus, he said, if you are going into the military really think, not just physically, but mentally if you are meant to be a part of it.
Using the lessons he learned, Rolinson continues to teach and inspire his students. “Self-reflect and seek your passion. For me, I would not be where I am today if I did not strive towards creating a life for myself,” he said.
Learn more about Rolinson and watch the interview here.