KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Those words have had an impact on people everywhere continuing to better themselves through education.
For soldiers in the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, they have continued to further their education by enrolling in college courses available with assistance from the Kandahar Education Center. Recently, the Education Center hosted a graduation ceremony to honor those service members who received their Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
Since most college courses are in classroom settings, soldiers have a difficult time making the correct time and place due to their responsibilities at work. To make college more accessible, the Army created several programs which work with universities to allow enrollment in online courses and smaller classes taught at military installations around the world.
“Online classes have made going back to school more convenient,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Timothy Hill, 140A Command and Control System Technician, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 25th CAB, also a native from Corning, Calif. “I have been on numerous training exercises and deployments and online classes have allowed me to pre-prepare for any upcoming assignments. I remember one weekend before going out into the field, I wrote four papers that were due during that time so I did not have to catch up when I got back.”
Hill graduated earning him a Master of Science in Information Technology and a Graduate Certificate in Foundation of Information Assurance from the University of Maryland University College. He also holds Master’s Degrees in Information Technology from Trident University and Education at Phoenix Online on top of his Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems with a minor in Culinary Arts from Wayland Baptist University.
Standing next to Hill receiving his Master of Science in Information Technology Management Degree with a Graduate Certificate in Chief Information Officer was Capt. Brandon Murphy, automations officer, HHC, 25th CAB, and a native of Preston, Idaho. “In the last two years, I have not had many nights and weekends off. Sometimes the homework lasted late into the night,” Murphy said. “I just focused on the long term, looked at where I wanted to be at the end of my career and based the classes on that.”
Hill and Murphy were not the only ones from the CAB who received degrees that day. Others included Chief Warrant Officer 2 Richard Ginn, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th CAB, who received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice with a Minor in Business from UMUC.
Performing the Conferral of Degrees and Hooding Ceremony was Allan Berg, vice-president and Europe director of UMUC, who holds a Doctorates of Philosophy and Juris Doctorate. “I know for the troops, to get a degree while working on active duty is incredibly challenging,” said Berg. “The challenges are huge. They have to be disciplined and tenacious to get their degrees. I have so much respect for the students that got their degree with a full time job.”
Challenges present themselves to anyone trying to continue their education, whether it is concentration or extracurricular activities. For service members, the challenges are in the form of field training exercises, a permanent change of station move, or deploying. One of the obstacles soldiers did not have to worry about was how to pay for college classes.
“Tuition Assistance paid for 95 percent of my classes that I have taken in my Army career,” said Hill. “I utilized the G.I. Bill to pay for a good amount of my education and then the Tuition Assistance.”
Murphy mirrored Hill’s efforts to use financial aid from the Army.
“I used TA, grants and scholarships, and the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill to pay for my classes,” said Murphy. “If you have the opportunity to go back to school, take advantage of the opportunity and the programs the Army has to offer.”
Getting a degree outside the Army can prove rather costly. According to the UMUC website, the average cost to obtain a Bachelor’s degree for a Maryland resident is $30,000 and $60,000 for nonresidents of Maryland.
“Education is worth it. You just have to focus on the long term, figure out what is important to you,” said the Preston, Idaho native. “You have to look at the big picture. For me, my family is my big picture. I would not have been able to achieve this if I didn’t have the support from my wife.”