Sgt. 1st Class Melissa J. Dyer, a Fife player in the U.S Army Fife and Drum Corps (FDC) recently won several awards from George Mason University for outstanding academic achievement.
“It was shocking,” said Dyer. “I kept getting these emails out of the blue, ‘Hey, congratulations you’ve been nominated for this, congratulations you’ve won this.’”
Dyer was awarded the Paige Nelson Award for American History, the Dean’s Challenge Award, inducted into Phi Alpha Theta (National Honor Society for History majors), and also one of seven people nominated for Best Senior Seminar Paper.
“Music is something that has always come easily to me,” said Dyer. “I’ve won prizes and awards throughout my life for being a musician, but never for academic reasons. It almost feels like I worked harder for that than anything.”
Paige Nelson Award for American History is awarded to outstanding History majors pursuing History as a career.
The Dean’s Challenge award is for Students who have excelled while making challenging academic choices.
“It makes me feel proud for her, to acknowledge her accomplishments, and it makes
me proud of the organization, we have such fine Soldier musicians that are dedicated not only to the mission at hand, but to their own development,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joseph M. Newby, Commander of the FDC. “That they use that development for the betterment of the unit.”
Dyer said she is enrolling in the master’s program at George Mason University in education when she retires from the FDC next fall.
The ultimate goal is to become a history teacher, Dyer said.
“I think she’s going to be a great teacher because of her passion for the field of history,” said Newby.
History, unlike music, was a subject Dyer struggled with in high school. Dyer failed history, she said.
It took the inspiration of a dynamic professor while she was earning her associates degree to ignite her passion for history, she said.
Dyer came to FDC in 1997, straight from her High School in Michigan.
As a member of a Fife and Drum Corps before she joined the military, Dyer said a position in FDC was her dream job.
FDC is essentially the big leagues for fife and drum, she said.
The huge demands on her time forced her to earn an associates degree over a 13-year period, Dyer said.
“When I transferred to George Mason, it was like, okay, clocks ticking,” said Dyer. “I really have to get this degree so I can have a job when I retire.”
Working on her bachelor’s degree full time, Dyer said she balances her duties as a college student, full time Soldier musician, a mother, a wife, and as the human resources noncommissioned officer in charge for the FDC.
“She is a stellar musician, she is a superb leader, she knows how to balance her life,” said Newby. “She is many things to many people, and her ability to juggle and balance all those things, while maintaining an even keel, is astounding to me.”
“She has an outstanding work ethic,” said Newby. “Our NCO’s have multiple tasks responsibilities, jobs, collateral duties, the scope of which can be overwhelming.”
Working on days off to process awards and maybe some homework in her office at FDC is a regular occurrence, Dyer said.
“She’s not a 42 alpha series (Human Resource Specialist),” said Newby. “All of our support shops are staffed by FDC members. We receive no formal training in our additional duties.”
“The challenge is not having enough hours in a day,” said Dyer. “Often times I come back from where ever the kids have been, I’m exhausted, but I still got a paper due at midnight.”
Despite the heavy workload, Dyer has maintained a 3.95 grade point average.
The FDC has been supportive of her educational pursuits. For example, Dyer’s fellow Soldier Musicians will trade missions so she can attend study sessions.
“Everybody gets it,” said Dyer.
“There is so much academic diversity in the Fife and Drum Corps, they understand,” said Dyer. “We have people with doctorates, master’s degrees, and honestly we’re getting more that is the norm.”
Newby said the Soldier Musicians in FDC as very cerebral and scholarly.
Before leaving the military, Dyer said she would work as a substitute teacher when her schedule has an opening so she can work her way up to a full time position.
It is her role in The Old Guard Dyer said that has contributed to her dogged determination to be successful, despite feeling overwhelmed at times.
“I’ve always been such a perfectionist, but never felt like I was good enough, even here,” said Dyer. “You always want to be better, want to be better, want to be better.”
“That’s how The Old Guard is. My shoes have to be shinier then yours, I have to stand at attention longer than you,” said Dyer. “Its such a mental game.”
The things she has been able to achieve academically have hopefully made her a role model for her daughters, she said.
“The younger one already said she wants to go to George Mason University,” said Dyer. “Just like mom.”