Veterans’ Voices: Tien Bui talks elections and the military

Tien Bui is a computer science major at Minnesota State University, Mankato who served in the United States Air Force from 2006 to 2012. While he enjoyed tinkering with computers in high school, the Air Force provided him with the means to pursue the profession he is aspiring for through his training experience.

The military placed him with a group who is in charge of IT networks. Together, they would troubleshoot problems as they would arise and answered questions from customers.

From listening to Bui’s excited talk and the way his face shines, anyone can see the passion he has for computers and technology.

“We were like ITS,” Bui explained. “They keep all the labs up and running and make sure the emails are up and running. All those sorts of things. If people would come in and have a problem on a machine, we fixed it.”

The military first sent Bui to Keesler, Mississippi, where he learned the basics. From there, the military gave him his first assignment where he received on-the-job training. Once every couple of weeks the military would hold training sessions and show Bui and the others how to handle new the technology that they would use.

“You’ll do stuff, then learn more, then do more,” he added, “and you grow from there.”

After that, the military put Bui and his IT team in Germany, he said, where they stayed most of the time since it is the home of the biggest computer network outside of the United States. The military also sent Bui to a country in the Middle East, but Bui he could not tell where that was. But they came back to Germany, then traveled to Afghanistan, then Iraq, and then back to Germany once more before he returned home to the United States in 2011.

When asked about why it appears that veterans are cast to the side, Bui took a bit of a historical point.

“Fewer and fewer people know and have less of a direct personal relationship with some veterans,” he said. “For example, at the end of World War II, everybody in America was a veteran and mom, dad, aunt, uncle—was in, doing some small part. Now that we’re an all-volunteer force, it’s more like ‘I kinda know that guy…’”

Along with the growing change of society, Bui also noted where the divide originates between those who know veterans and those who don’t.

“The more people we know in something, the better understanding we have of it,” he said. “If you grew up in a family of police officers, you have a much better idea of what they go through than anybody else.”

When asked on how the presence of the military should be used, Bui thought a little before he answered.

“It’s all about application,” he said. “I think that some people get the idea of a military that is synonymous or is equal to danger or threat or something like that. But the point of it is, you can have a very strong military and be ready to respond to things without the threat of peace or you protect those who need it.”

He also described it as keeping a knife block at your house and what you do with those set of knives. If you used the knives to attack a whole neighborhood, that is no good, but if you defend yourself from a robber who breaks in, that is different.

“I think that people criticize the size of our military, and while I can’t disagree, we protect a lot of people on this planet because their military is not that strong,” Bui said. “They don’t have the stuff we do and they call us for help all the time and that is why we are spread around the world. We have allies, we have friends….There’s a lot of people out there who are doing bad stuff.”

When The Reporter asked how Barrack Obama handled the presence of the military during administration in the pros, cons, and in-between, Bui again thought carefully before he answered. When he did, he admitted he had mixed feelings, especially in light of problems with the VA.

“I think he did a well enough job that the military was able to accomplish what it needed to,” Bui said. “He was a fairly strong leader and had clear goals in mind, very good goals. However, at the same time, the smallest pay raises in the military came during his presidency.”

Bui also said he believed Obama set a bad precedent when he said that he gave clear time lines of when he pulled out the forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.

“It’s one of those things where it takes a long time to build up those countries and I think that he didn’t give it enough time,” Bui said. “Right now it’s pretty bad, especially in Iraq, because of Isis and other terrorist groups. When you pull out like that without a backup plan, then you open up the door for trouble. And that’s where we’re at right now.”

Like other students, when Bui isn’t intensely studying, he enjoys bowling, traveling, learning about new technology, listening to Podcasts including a favorite called “This Week in Security,” and going to movies with his friends.

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