Veterans Day remembrance: Alumnus shares his story of military service

Sergeant Douglas Payne receives a certificate of promotion

Veterans Day remembrance: Alumnus shares his story of military service

U .S. Army Sergeant Douglas Payne, ’13, knows what it’s like to be in the boots of a soldier. He took a different career path than most new alumni. Instead of delving into corporate America after graduation, the criminal justice major and business administration minor, enlisted in the U.S. Army.

He found Georgia College to be a good fit to set the foundation for his career in the military. 

Douglas Payne receives his promotion to sergeant certificate.
Douglas Payne receives his promotion to sergeant certificate.

“It’s big enough that it has a lot of great resources like a large university does, but the class sizes are relatively small and so is the campus. It is the best of both worlds,” he said. “I also wanted to have that relationship with professors, so I could talk with them outside of class. That’s what sets Georgia College apart from the other universities.”

Dr. Sara Doude, associate professor of criminal justice and criminal justice coordinator, stood out to Payne. She was very knowledgeable and approachable.

“She just made the classroom environment fun and something to look forward to every day,” he said.

Doude also frequently checks in with criminal justice alumni to provide them with potential job opportunities.

“That’s something that’s really awesome to see,” Payne said. “Initially, I asked her to write a reference letter for me to get my masters, and she was willing and able to do this. She told me that whatever I needed from her, she was here to help.”

While pursuing his undergraduate degree, Payne also took advantage of leadership opportunities as a member of the Georgia College Leadership Certificate Program (LCP) and Model U.N. He was also a senator with the Student Government Association (SGA) and treasurer of the Residential Student Association.

“LCP really ignited my desire to be a leader in college and beyond,” Payne said. “That was a great avenue to learn, speak and be with like-minded individuals. Model U.N. was a good competition—one that had a lasting impact, because it made me think about strategic implications on a global scale. We lived in the shoes of the people of that country. So, it was really cool to mirror what they thought about. We also learned how to communicate with allies to make the world a better place.” 

“One of the big things I took to heart when I was in the army was that you join the military, because you want to fight for your country. But when you’re working with individuals, you realize that you’d fight for the person to your left and to your right. Having that type of relationship with individuals is a real win.”
– Sergeant Douglas Payne

In addition, Payne worked for Student Night Auxiliary Patrol (SNAP) his last two years at Georgia College, which he holds in high regard.

“Working for Public Safety was the best experience I had while I was there,” he said. “It was so much fun. I learned how that type of career works and got to be mentored by those professionals. It was outstanding.”

A few months after graduating from Georgia College, Payne enlisted in the U.S. Army and left for basic training in October. He was able to apply the effective communication skills he learned at Georgia College to his role as an intelligence analyst in the army and, later, as an analyst at the U.S. Department of Defense. Those skills proved vital in his military and civilian career.

“Words have meanings,” Payne said. “In times when it matters most—when people are deployed—you need to make sure you know what you’re saying and that you’re saying the right words with the right tone to get your thoughts across, because some service members aren’t able to speak for long periods of time.”

When serving on active duty in Italy for five years, he focused on African topics and issues related to U.S. involvement in operations in Africa. Payne even deployed to partner with some African nations.

“We are trying to find ways to partner with African nations, building a better place for each country there,” he said.

“In Italy, I analyzed different enemies and reported that to military officials, as well as other agencies, so they could see the big picture and make important decisions,” Payne said. “It was really cool, because I got to work in different echelons, from lower to more strategic levels.”

This experience helped him decipher what different individuals wanted, whether an enlisted member, a state department individual or four-star general. He met many individuals there and formed some lasting relationships.

After a year in Italy, he married Melissa Perez Payne, ’14, whom he met at Georgia College. The couple lived in the country for the remainder of his time on active duty. During his downtime, they traveled throughout Europe, visiting various ancient churches, Stonehenge and Vatican City to see the Pope. 

Sergeant Douglas Payne, analyst, U.S. Department of Defense
Sergeant Douglas Payne, analyst, U.S. Department of Defense

When he returned to America, Payne became an analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense. His experiences at Georgia College helped in his transition to a civilian job.

“Being able to find and hone those skills I learned what I want to do was really beneficial,” Payne said. “Having that and being mentored by an individual who was already in the field, put me ahead of the game.”

Now that he’s working as a civilian, he strives to make sure those who are deployed stay safe.

“It’s given me job satisfaction to know that some of the work we’re doing is ensuring that these people are safe and that they’re going to come home to their family and friends,” said Payne.

When the couple had their first child this year, Payne was deployed. Now, he’s glad to be home with his family. Serving in the army makes him value the time spent with them. 

Sergeant Douglas Payne with his wife, Melissa, and their baby, Grace.
Sergeant Douglas Payne with his wife, Melissa, and their baby, Grace.

“You begin to appreciate the small things, like when I took my daughter, Grace, to the swings for the first time recently," he said. 

A soldier’s life is 24/7, and that can be tough on families. So, on Veterans Day, Payne wants others to remember the families of military service members, who are often times forgotten.

“Many times, veterans and active members of the military get thanked and the families are forgotten,” he said. “We should thank them, because they’re making the sacrifice, as well. My wife knew me before I joined the military. She knew where I was wanting to go. Yet, she was ok with it. That’s what happens many times. Family members tend to make a sacrifice just as much or more than service members.”

Throughout it all, Payne finds his position at the Department of Defense particularly rewarding. It has national implications. He works hand-in-hand with other like-minded individuals to ensure the nation is secure, while protecting Americans here and abroad.

“One of the big things I took to heart when I was in the army was that you join the military, because you want to fight for your country. But when you’re working with individuals, you realize that you’d fight for the person to your left and to your right,” said Payne. “Having that type of relationship with individuals is a real win.”

Georgia College pays tribute to all military service members on Veterans Day and throughout the year.