“I decided a while ago that I just want to commit my entire life to service,” says Nathaniel Briggs. His dream — “to fight to protect as many people as I can. After graduation, they’ll ship me out to my training base, wherever that may be, so I can do the job for my country.”
There is no better metaphor for Nathaniel’s action-oriented philosophy than a recent fun run for kids at which he and his fellow cadets in UT’s three Reserve Officers’ Training Corps were volunteering. There were a number of inflatables weighed with bags of water on top of a hill, but the wind was too much, and the inflatables started tumbling into crowds of children.
Then he noticed a curious thing. All the parents were just standing and watching. “I was just thinking ‘What are you doing?! You’re in the way of this with your kid, and you’re not doing anything about it!’ ”
It was a prime example, he says, of the “bystander effect,” when something bad is happening within a crowd and nobody helps because everyone thinks someone else is going to jump in and deal with it.” Whenever Nathaniel and his friends would see an inflatable start to tumble, “we’d all jump into action, tackle it, deflate it, and make sure no one got hurt — and we essentially had to do it all day!” he says with a laugh. “It was a blast, because we were saving kids left and right, and nobody got hurt because we were doing our jobs super effectively.”
He decided to go into the Air Force during his senior year of high school in San Antonio. Then thought, what better way to be a pilot than to know the plane inside and out? So he chose to study aerospace engineering at UT.
He also works as a science and math tutor for high school students preparing for college entrance exams. “Something about working with kids and helping them do well on tests so that they can go to the college they want — it’s the coolest job I’ve ever had, and I can’t even believe I have the opportunity to do that at such a young age.”
But teaching will have to wait. “I’m a real gung-ho kind of guy,” he notes, “and tutoring is not that dangerous.” Some day, he might combine his excitement for flying with his love of teaching. “Maybe I go fly, and then one day I can teach young officers to fly as well,” says Nathaniel, a former commander of UT’s Air Force ROTC drill team. The Air Force recently named UT’s Air Force ROTC the best in the nation.
And there’s one more aspiration. “Whenever I finish my military career, I definitely would like to continue my service to the public by going into politics and pushing forward policies that give people equal opportunities to change the world and help others.”
Nathaniel Briggs is no bystander.