Navy Veteran Koba Bryant charts new future at RCC
At just 26 years old, Lumberton native Koba Bryant has traveled around the world and has experienced life thousands of feet under the sea aboard the USS Cheyenne, an active service submarine, whose homeport just happens to be Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Petty Officer First Class Koba Bryant joined the Navy when he was 17 years old after being a member of the JROTC at Lumberton High School. Bryant remembers it just like it was yesterday.
“I had my parents’ permission,” Bryant said. “I graduated high school in June and left on August 25th for boot camp in Chicago, Illinois.”
From there, the Navy would take him to Meridian, Mississippi, and New London, Connecticut for training before being shipped off to Hawaii, where he was stationed for 5 years.
“I always dreamed of exploring the world,” Bryant said. “I wanted to get educational benefits, but I also wanted to serve my country.”
While in the Navy, Bryant says he “did a little bit of everything – Logistics. Inventory Management. Warehouse Management.”
“It was like working for Amazon, I was just inventorying parts on a submarine.”
Bryant also learned how to drive the submarine.
“It was a 2.3-billion-dollar piece of equipment that had 18-year-olds driving it,” Bryant said, also noting that 70% of the US military is under 30 years of age. “It takes 4 people to drive it – someone to steer, change depth, move around the buoyancy, and someone to be a supervisor.”
“I enjoyed driving, I was good at it,” Bryant said. “Sometimes we would work around the clock… you have to keep the submarine dark at all times so that the enemy will not see you.”
Although Bryant was stationed in Hawaii for 5 years, he says that he was only on land for 2.
“We did a lot of tours in the West Pacific visiting Asian countries,” Bryant stated as he listed all the different places he visited, which included Guam, Japan, and South Korea. He even sailed on the equator a few times.
“Sometimes we were out in the middle of nowhere,” Bryant said.
Bryant recalls a tradition that the sailors had when they crossed the International Date Line, which dates back to WWII.
“We would turn our overalls inside out, and gather around the diesel engine of the ship,” Bryant said. “We would drink some kind of concoction, it didn’t taste good, but that’s what we did each time we would cross over.”
To keep track of time, Bryant says they used “Zulu” time, another military tradition so as not to get confused when they would sail across the International Dateline.
“Zulu time had no time zone.”
His last stop was in Bremerton, Washington, a small town that maintains supplies for the US Naval Fleet. Bryant worked in warehouse management, shipping items around the world for naval vessels.
That experience, along with driving the submarine and maintaining inventory, helped generate his interest in logistics, a field he hopes to learn more about in the coming years.
“That’s why I decided to come to RCC,” Bryant said. “I want to get my associate of arts and then transfer to East Carolina University to get a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management.”
Bryant says his father, Timothy Bryant who serves as the program director of the Industrial Technologies program at RCC, helped guide his decision.
“I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do, but my Dad convinced me to come to RCC,” Bryant stated. “He was a heavy influence in helping me decide to go into logistics.”
“I enjoy RCC, the staff here are very nice and they engage with the students,” Bryant said. “It feels like a community here, everyone is very kind and if you are willing to be here, you can find your place and discover what you enjoy…. It’s like my Dad said, ‘It’s better to take some classes than no classes at all.”
Since enrolling at Robeson Community College, Koba has thrived. He was recently elected the RCC SGA President for 2024-2025, which has helped to open up new doors of opportunity for serving and leading others.
Bryant frequently speaks at RCC during events and wants to see other students get involved.
“Last August, I finished my 8 years of service with the United States with the US Navy. Serving your country is one of the highest forms of service that you can do,” Bryant stated during the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute held at RCC, which was organized by ACUMEN, which stands for Accomplished, Credentialed, United Men of Robeson Community College, the minority male mentoring group which Bryant is a part of.
“During my time of service, I had many opportunities to lead, guide, and support my fellow service members in different aspects of life I didn’t think I would be doing 8 years ago.”
“My only intention when I came to RCC was to be a student and do what I had to do and go home, but something felt missing after I got out of the service, I missed the comradery,” Bryant told students. “But as they say, fate has a funny way of circling back around and I was approached about becoming SGA President.”
It was at that time; that Bryant knew becoming the SGA President was an opportunity to serve others that he couldn’t afford to miss.
“I would like for the students to know they have a voice through SGA,” Bryant said. “I want to help do more for the students and find ways to serve them better.”
Bryant says that Robeson Community College has a lot to offer and encourages others to attend.
“If you’re not sure what to do, come to RCC, just take one course, ease your way into it,” Bryant said. “You don’t have to rush your education, you can get a flexible schedule… RCC offers day classes, night classes, online classes, and there’s lots of funding out there, so even if you don’t think you can afford it, just come by and see what options are available.”
“If you are a veteran, use your educational benefits, don’t let your benefits go without being used, pass it on to a loved one, your kids, or your spouse, but please use them, you earned it.”
“While I was in the military, there were many people from all walks of life, but we all came together for a single mission,” Bryant said. “In a lot of ways, that’s how a community college is, every student is at a different place in their life, yet we all have one common goal, and that is that we are all seeking a better life through education.”