Richmond, Virginia native Jerome “JT” Taylor chose to enlist in the Army when he was 18 years old because he wanted pursue opportunities greater than what was offered by life on the streets. He joined the service so he could see the world and earn money for college. After completing basic training, Jerome was assigned to the 1st Ranger Battalion out of Savannah, Georgia’s Hunter Army Airfield. Seeking new and exciting challenges, Taylor made the decision to join Army Special Forces.

As opposed to the majority of military units, Special Forces teams are made up of small teams that are tasked with completing highly specialized missions that come with an extremely high risk factor. Taylor likened his experiences as a Green Beret to the sports teams he played on as a youth in that a small group of people had to implicitly trust one another in order to achieve their objectives. While he was initially unnerved by the prospect of performing high-altitude military parachuting, his faith in his fellow soldiers allowed him to overcome his fears. Over the course of his military career, Taylor estimated that he performed over 1,000 skydiving jumps.

According to Taylor, the most important things he learned during his time in the Army was the value of patience and the importance of methodical problem solving, skills that would serve him well in his civilian career. Nearing the end of his term of service, Taylor attended college to study the emerging field of cyber security. Having earned his master’s degree in information resources management, JT founded his own cyber security company, Digital Forensic Services, once he retired.

Having secured contracts with the Department of Defense, Taylor’s company is often tasked with tracking down cyber criminals, an assignment he is uniquely suited for because of his military experience. In the Special Forces, JT served as the “what if guy,” the member of the team tasked with evaluating every possible mission outcome and developing contingency plans to deal with each of those outcomes. Like an NFL quarterback, Taylor has to be focused with both offense and defense at all times. On a related note, Taylor grew up a Dallas Cowboys fan, but once he settled in Maryland as a civilian, he saw which way the wind was blowing and adopted the Baltimore Ravens as his new favorite team.

Reflecting on his time in the military, Taylor feels a great amount of gratitude for the many opportunities the service provided him with. Growing up, he saw a number of his peers consumed by drugs and violence, but joining the service set him on a path that would see him become a college educated business owner. Having had that incredible experience, Jerome now works as a mentor to show local young men who are in a similar position to the one he was in while growing up that there is another way forward. In that role, he has advised the youngsters to join the military so that they can acquire the skills they need to succeed. Also, Taylor noted that serving in the military offers more than just training for the future. He believes it gives individuals the opportunity to, “Not just provide for themselves, but to do their best. To give back to the country, to serve the country.”

Mario McKellop is a freelance writer who has covered the pop culture beat since 2010.