Aaron Bryant spent nearly three decades as an infantry and logistics officer in the U.S. Army. After this lengthy and productive career in the armed forces, he now serves his community in a local sheriff's department while working toward an online master's degree from Saint Leo University.

The 49-year-old native of Webster, Fla. is a graduate of South Sumter High School.

He originally attended Saint Leo College in the early 1990s, earning a Bachelor of Arts in History degree in 1994.

He and his wife, Amy, have two sons, 20-year-old Jacob and 18-year-old Gavin. The family lives on 15 acres and operates a small farm in rural Webster.

Serving the Community through the Pasco Sheriff's Office

Bryant started working for the Pasco Sheriff's Office in June of 2019. He works as a manager under the emergency management division, which is part of the joint operations bureau.

"We set up this division after Hurricane Irma in 2017," he says. "Our main goal is to focus on organizational preparedness, principles and the various phases of emergency management so we can provide specific services that are necessary within our community."

Precautions During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

He has been responsible for educating all staff members on the proper procedures to protect both themselves, their families and the community from getting the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

He has also helped coordinate with community partners on setting up testing areas for people to visit who think they might have the virus, as well as doing traffic control and providing a security presence at these sites.

"One of the community testing sites is Gulf High School in New Port Richey, which is providing testing through BayCare. We also have some public testing sites in Dade City and Zephyrhills through Advent Health."

The county's 911 call center has also instituted some new policies, such as doing risk assessments by asking callers specific questions if they have traveled internationally or domestically where some of the Coronavirus hot spots have been.

Additionally, the county's detention centers are screening inmates before sending them into the general population areas of their facilities.

"For nonviolent crimes, we've been issuing a summons to appear so that our deputies don't have to transport as many individuals. However, we are absolutely still transporting any violent criminals to our facilities."

Observations through the Lens of an Emergency Management Professional

Bryant has some observations about what has been going on, specifically from the perspective of an emergency management professional.

"We're getting a modern-day civics lesson in real time. There are lots of people out there who don't understand the U.S. Constitution and the roles of the government at the federal, state and local levels. The key is to mitigate issues at the local level. One of the biggest misunderstandings is that people look at the federal government as the main 911 system in this country. You have to realize that it's up to the states and local communities to worry about what goes on in those specific regions."

Plus, he believes everyone needs to act responsibly.

"You have to take some individual responsibility and isolate yourself," he says. "In many cases, the general public doesn't want to read up on things and do research themselves about what is going on in the world. They want to be told what they need to do."

A 26-Year Army Career

Prior to his current career, Bryant proudly served in the Army for 26 years. He enlisted in August of 1992.

"I was actually commissioned as an officer at Saint Leo College in its ROTC program when I was an undergrad there," Bryant recalls. "It was a small school and close to home, only about 20 miles from Webster. I've also had quite a few family members who have served and knew I wanted to serve my country."

Over the course of his military service, he worked in logistics, distribution and supply chain management, special operations support, emergency management, personnel development, contracting and safety.

He had several deployments spanning a total of 28 months. This included work in operations and combat missions. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

He retired as a lieutenant colonel in October of 2018.

Pursuing an Online Master's Degree at Saint Leo University

Bryant is a current student in Saint Leo University's Master of Science in Emergency and Disaster Management online degree program. He enrolled in the fall of 2019 and says it was an easy decision coming back to the university he graduated from nearly a quarter-century earlier.

"I discovered that furthering my education and getting credentialed is important in this field," he explains. "It definitely gives you more credibility when dealing with other emergency management leaders and organizations. I got a lot of experience in operations in the military, so this master's program has a lot of aspects to it that are very familiar to me based on my military background."

He adds that the fact that it's an online degree program makes it even more convenient for him to continue working while earning this graduate degree.

He admits he was a little nervous about returning to an academic program after so many years since he finished his undergraduate studies.

"I was a little apprehensive, but it has honestly been a very easy transition for me. But in the military, we did use Blackboard and some other online learning tools as part of our training. The biggest adjustment has been getting back into academic writing. We use the APA style guide in this master's program."

Saint Leo's Core Values

According to Bryant, he has connected with several of Saint Leo University's core values on which its degree programs are based.

"The fact that Saint Leo is a private Catholic school drew me there as an undergrad originally," he says. "Plus, in the military, there is a shared values system with a culture of men and women working together for a common goal and for the same values. These are very similar values to what Saint Leo encourages. I'd say community and giving back to others are the main reason I was in the military and are now the reason I'm back with Saint Leo."

Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Aaron Bryant and is used with permission.