A&M–Central Texas Alum Named Army Congressional Fellow

Jonathan Petty
May 17, 2024

Sitting in his room in Washington D.C. Matthew Coble takes stock of his new temporary home. For the past month, the Army Captain has been stationed in a classroom at The George Washington University (GW), focusing on the inner workings of congress and working toward a Master of Professional Studies degree in legislative affairs.

It’s all part of his new assignment. As a 15-year Army veteran, CPT. Coble was recently named an Army Congressional Fellow — a post he finds both exhilarating and challenging.

“This is crazy. You take the hard jobs, you run, and run, and run, and then, suddenly you’re a student again,” he said. “Like a lot of things in the Army, the hardest part is the process to get there and get selected. It’s really having the drive to stick with it. Taking the hard jobs and being competitive, and once you get there, you’re rewarded.”

The Army Congressional Fellowship is a highly competitive program that takes Army officers and embeds them in congress where they network and build relationships while serving congressional members. Coble had to submit an exhaustive application, then go through a strenuous vetting process culminating in an interview prior to being selected. In all, he said it took more than 9 months to complete the selection process. Coble was notified of his selection in November of 2023, then received his PCS (Permanent Change of Station) orders and set out for D.C. where he started classes at GW in April.

It certainly isn’t Coble’s first trip to the nation’s capital. He even said a prior experience in D.C. came while student body president at Texas A&M University–Central Texas when he attended a conference. Things were different for Coble while a student, but, even then, he was well on his way to a successful military career.


Coble grew up in Warren, Ohio, with no real connection to the military. Graduating from Warren G. Harding High School, he enrolled at Kent State University just a few miles up the road, choosing to major in psychology as a means to an end.

“I think I chose that like some of the kids with zero guidance, asking what’s an easy, interesting degree,” Coble said. “So, I initially went into psychology.”

College, however, was taxing for Coble who was working full time to pay for his education. Between the job and going to school full time, he was feeling burnt out. By chance, Coble called a friend who was living in Las Vegas and just happened to need a roommate. Looking for a break and to get out of Ohio,

Coble joined his friend in Vegas and started working as a bartender.

“I bartended for a couple of years which was fantastic,” he said. “But it’s not a way to make a living very long if you want to keep your sanity and maybe raise a family. It’s a fast-paced life.”

It was a fast-paced life at a time when recession was setting in and hitting the job market, making it difficult to find other jobs. All the while, finishing his college degree was a lingering desire. With limited options and not much going on outside of work, Coble talked to an Army recruiter who, like any good recruiter, sold him on the promises of adventure, a stable income, and the potential to complete his education.

“And that’s how I got into the Army,” he said.


Coble enlisted as a combat medic based on his desire to capitalize on his psychology education and deployed to Iraq in 2010. He spent three-and-a-half years as enlisted prior to deciding to pursue his commission as an officer, where he wanted to focus on military intelligence.

Upon returning from leave after his deployment, Coble submitted his officer candidate school packet only to find that at 28, he was too old. The Army had dropped the maximum age limit.

“I had to do something else,” he said. “So, I looked at the ROTC Green to Gold program which is enlisted to officer.”

Coble was also late in applying to graduate schools that generally require applications to be submitted in the fall a year prior to your proposed start date. As it turned out, however, A&M–Central Texas has a strong ROTC program affiliation and required graduate applications to be submitted in the spring prior to a proposed start date. Both worked in Coble’s favor.

Coble had completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology with Kent State while deployed. He knew he wanted to continue down the psychology path, but also wanted to be able to tie his education into his work in military intelligence. He had been looking at the master’s in psychology program at A&M–Central Texas and was able to apply and get accepted in time to start the program without needing to wait and additional year.

Coble successfully parlayed his experience and education into the military intelligence field.

“All those cool spy satellites that go overhead that nobody knows what they do,” he said when describing his work. “I know what they do.” The fact is, in much of his work in military intelligence, Coble is sifting through data and finding patterns and deficiencies. He explained that one aspect of his psychology education fit nicely into his day-to-day work.

“With psychology, you can divide it into two general paths,” he said. “You can look at clinical psychology where you are talking to people, helping people and that comes with more certifications. Or with experimental — it’s research based,based; data based. That sounded really interesting.”

Coble said he didn’t want to go into clinical psychology and work through certifications that he would probably never use in his military career, but the mastery of research and data-based study is something he knew he would use on a daily basis.

“I was already looking at military intelligence. I liked the data drivenness. A lot of those skills I thought would help me in terms of being a good consumer of data. Looking at inherent biases in different streams of data that I get as an officer in the intel field,” Coble said.

He wasn’t disappointed. Coble graduated from A&M–Central Texas in 2014 and has put his education to good use.

“Being an intel officer, a lot of times we’re trying to pull in all these different streams of data and make sense of them from all types of different sensors,” he said. “The degree itself really prepared me to examine sources of data and look at inherent biases, the quality of data, where its coming from, calling BS on data sets that are just loaded with bias and deficiencies.”

Coble said that because of his education, he was a step ahead of other individuals who weren’t prepared for the type of research they were doing.


Now that he’s returned to the classroom, Coble thinks back to his days at A&M–Central Texas. It’s been 10 years since he graduated with his master’s degree and in December, he will graduate again with an MPS from GW. From there, his journey on Capitol Hill will continue.

As an Army Congressional Fellow, Coble will spend a year working in a congressional office in a non-partisan role. Coble said he will receive a list of Senators and Representatives who have requested a Congressional Fellow, and he will rank them based on his preferences. Eventually assignments will be handed out based on Coble’s assessment and a number of other factors, and he will spend a year working in a congressional office.

“We support the member,” he said. “We are used strictly as a staffer. We help primarily with the National Defense Authorization Act. They put us almost primarily on the staff of members who sit either on the armed services committee for the house or the senate.”

The last two years of the Fellowship Coble will move to a role for the Department of Defense (DoD) that will capitalize on the relationships and networks he has built on Capitol Hill. The program is designed to help participants understand congressional actions and their effects on the DoD’s budget, programs and military projects.

“We go inside congress for a year, reaching out for information and pulling it in to educate our member,” he explained. “Then the last two years we are actually working for the Army, reaching into congress for information.”


Following his term as an Army Congressional Fellow, Coble said he will have one more assignment, then be eligible for retirement. But that’s not in his plans.

“I think I’m staying for the long run,” he said. “The Army has a way of when you are at a decision point, it just so happens you are in the primary zone for the next rank. So, you make that and then you go on to the next job.”

Coble said he felt he would be doing a disservice to the Army to retire so soon after the Armyit has invested sto much in him. Plus, he said the next jobs are enticing.

“My next position after D.C., I’d be looking at 2030 and Lieutenant Colonel,” he said. “After that, you’re looking at battalion command and jobs of higher responsibility, so I think I’m going to stick it out.”

But for now, he’s looking forward to working through his time as an Army Congressional Fellow. He’s enjoying going to classes and will soon be joined in D.C. by his wife and four children ages 4, 6, 10 and 11.

“That’s another advantage to this program,” Coble said. “There’s not a lot of times in the Army that you can pick and choose when your family gets to move with you.”

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