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Ted Froats Jr.

Ted Froats Jr., right, works on a story in Balad, Iraq.

Most people earn a degree first, then start a career in the field they’ve studied.

Not Ted Froats Jr.

Now a senior at Penn State Beaver, Froats went out into the world and became an accomplished journalist for the Air Force first.

After five years of working mostly overseas, Froats returned to the United States with an honorable discharge from the military and enrolled in the communications degree at Beaver campus to earn the credentials he needs to get hired to do the job that he’s already done for years.

He’s every professor’s dream student.

“One of the great things about returning students is they bring with them a maturity many of the traditional students lack. Ted’s military background shows in a million ways. He’s always prepared and always has something to offer,” said Dr. John Chapin, associate professor of communications.

Froats didn’t completely fall into his role as a military journalist. After boot camp, he was sent to Fort Meade, Md., for training on how to write news stories and how to operate video and radio equipment.

After six weeks of training, he was deployed to South Korea for two years.

“My first job in South Korea entailed me doing a radio show from noon to three on the weekdays. I played pop music for the American soldiers stationed there,” Froats said.

Six months later he became the reporter of a 30-minute newscast.

“I filmed people in the Air Force doing their jobs, and I would come up with a story on how they were awesome,” Froats said.

Six months later, a promotion allowed him to direct the first live TV newscast in that area in more than 50 years.

That’s not to say that the broadcast was his most exciting event to occur in South Korea. Froats had the opportunity to interview several celebrities for his radio show, including Avril Lavigne.

“I asked her to marry me. … She said yes,” Froats said.

He was able to expand his experience when he transferred to the Azores Islands, where he hosted a morning radio show, filmed news and TV commercials, and became the anchor of a news show.

When Froats returned to the U.S. after a year and a half in the Azores, he was equipped with the knowledge and skills to take on his next mission — deployment to Iraq. He had volunteered repeatedly to go and, in 2008, left California to be stationed at Joint Base Balad.

“I filmed news stories in Iraq that were sent out to different news channels. We provided the news story for free, and they could do whatever they wanted with it,” Froats said.

His work appeared on CNN, ABC, CBS, and MTV. Froats took his work very seriously and, on one occasion, disobeyed an order not to leave the base to get the story.

“There was a story on how the Air Force was taking over security in Iraq from the Army. The story was very beneficial to the Air Force, and to get good video you had to leave the base,” he said.

Although denied permission to leave base, Froats went out because he was determined to show the reality of the dangerous jobs held by many Air Force personnel.

The footage never aired. Froats was caught leaving base but says he was grateful for leniency. “I received a minor lecture from my supervisor’s supervisor, … but anything more drastic would have received attention from the very people my boss’ boss was trying to hide my escapades from,” he said.

It isn’t just his work experience during these deployments that shaped the well-rounded, enthusiastic person that faculty and students see in the classroom. Froats also has a heart for helping others.

During his time in Iraq, he cofounded Kids of Iraq, a charity dedicated to helping Iraqi children received school supplies, clothing, and toys. The charity provided more than 200 boxes of donations to schools throughout the country.

In January 2009 he returned to California with the option to re-enlist, but Froats decided he was ready for a change. He knew about the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and returning to school was the obvious choice.

His father, Ted Froats Sr., manager of information technology at Beaver campus, shared his love for Penn State Beaver with his son. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had in my life. I can’t wait to get here on Monday morning,” said Froats Sr., himself an Air Force veteran.

His father’s enthusiasm about the campus encouraged Froats Jr. to enroll. As a bonus, Beaver offered everything he was looking for and was close to home. He became a student in spring 2010.

Professors continue to be pleased to have him in their class.

“He made the whole class feel comfortable talking and interacting and had a lot to do with creating a better learning atmosphere and making the material more digestible for other students,” said Dr. William Locascio, instructor in anthropology.

“He was also a great student in the sense that he did all the reading, got A’s on all the exams, and understood the material very well. But his greatest qualities lie in his friendly demeanor and ability to make people feel comfortable around him,” Locascio said.

Anyone who meets Froats Jr. agrees. His dedication and enthusiasm in the military have gone far in ensuring his success at Penn State Beaver.

Originally written by Abigail Collins '10 for the Penn State Beaver Nittany News alumni magazine, Spring 2011.