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Training and Education Command

United States Marine Corps
Depot's Education Fair to showcase programs, schools

By Cpl. Matt Preston | | July 19, 2002

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT/EASTERN RECRUTING REGION, PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. - -- "Eventually, I'll be a psychologist."

Gunnery Sgt. Larry D. Johns, a Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion. drill instructor, is sitting in a swivel chair in the Education Office with a big grin on his face. He's got a lot to smile about. He's about to get paid to go to school.

Johns started with only a minimum of college credits when he came onto Parris Island in 1999.  With only 18 credits to his name when going onto the drill field, he, like all drill instructors, felt the time crunch placed upon by the demands of recruit training.

When assigned to quota to Support Battalion, Johns enrolled in off-duty education classes at Park University. He was even able to continue his education when he returned to a training company. Majoring in psychology, Johns has now earned more than 60 credits, the minimum needed to enroll in the Staff Noncommissioned Officer's Degree Program, one of several programs Johns has taken advantage of through the educational programs offered by the Marine Corps.

Johns is grateful to the staff members of the Education Office.

"I owe a great deal to these guys," said Johns. "These guys [were] interested in helping me out. I basically put out all my cards on the table and they helped put them all nice and neat."

The SNCODCP is allowing Johns (and potentially other staff NCO's) to carry a book bag rather than an ALICE pack for 18 months; just enough time to finish off his psychology degree. In return for being able to go to school full time, Johns extended his service to the Marine Corps for three more years. The 18 months counts as time in service and he's still paid as a gunny, too.

The SNCODCP is only one of many programs that will be showcased at the 2002 Education Fair to be held at the Four Winds Club July 23. The fair will feature not only the programs offered by the Marine Corps and Navy, but also feature representatives from many of the local area colleges and universities. Distance learning schools will also have representatives available to answer questions.

The Education Fair is designed to give service members and their families an opportunity to see the possibilities of advanced education.

"The purpose of the fair is to showcase the programs available," said Jan Wilson, Education Office test examiner. "That goes for associate degrees, bachelors and even some PhDs. We want our customers to have one-stop shopping."

The timing of the Fair was important, according to Wilson. Potential students need to start looking for options now to get ready for the upcoming Fall semester.

To help them get into school, service members have a variety of programs available. One of the most commonly used programs is Tuition Assistance. This helps active duty service members pay up to 75 percent of tuition costs while taking classes. Another program, Top Up, may allow some service members to pay all of it.

The Education Office also provides a myriad of tests. Passing College Level Examination Program tests allow students to earn up to a third or more of the credits needed for a degree. They also provide several classification tests such as the Armed Forces Classification Test (formerly known as the ASVAB), the Electronic Data Processing Test, the Defense Language Proficiency Test and the Defense Language Aptitude Battery.

The office can also provide ACT and SAT tests. One or both of these tests are often required to enter into a college or university. These are just some of the services available to service members and their families.

These services aren't limited to Marines, either. Petty Officer 2nd class Joseph Cahill, Preventive Medicine Technician, has been studying pre-med for two years. His goal is to become a Navy doctor. He's halfway there. Cahill has completed 80 credits, earning 30 of them through various tests offered by the Education Office.

"Since I've been here . . . I started taking advantages of the programs," said Cahill. "I don't know why people don't take them." Cahill also said he wouldn't have been able to afford the cost of education otherwise.

"It's amazing. It's a hidden opportunity for everyone in the military," he said. "I don't think anyone has an excuse not to take these programs."

Cahill isn't the only sailor with academic aspirations. His co-worker, Petty Officer 2nd class (Fleet Marine Force) Timothy Worley, Preventive Medicine Technician, also has been working towards a degree. Taking online courses through the University of Maryland, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the University of Oklahoma, Worley is majoring in environmental management. So far, he's earned 55 credits, 21 of them through simple testing.

For Worley, the best thing about the programs is the availability of them, and he hopes others would be use them like he has.

"They need to find the motivation to sit down and talk to the education office," said Worley. "I wish more people would take advantage of it."

As a non-deployable station, Parris Island affords a luxury not many places in the Marine Corps have -  the security that you won't be called overseas on a week's notice. The Education Fair gives Marines, Sailors and their families the chance to take advantage of being stationary by offering them opportunities to earn their degree. For some, these programs may be the only way they will ever be able to afford higher education. Worley, Cahill and Johns did it. Anyone else can, too.

For more information about these programs, contact your installation's education office.


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