News: Distance education helps Marine leaders on Okinawa succeed
Story by Lance Cpl. Peter Sanders
CAMP FOSTER, Japan - U.S. military members pride themselves on intellect as much as their combat prowess. After two years of courses in a professional education setting, service members and civilian federal employees graduated during a ceremony marking their commitment to continual education and self-improvement.
The graduation ceremony of both the Expeditionary Warfare School and the Command and Staff College was held at the Camp Foster Community Center June 5. The courses are part of a distance education curriculum provided by the Marine Corps University.
Currently, senior enlisted and officer courses are offered to all service members and federal employees of qualifying pay grades as either a resident course or night classes, according to James P. Hopkins, the regional coordinator for the MCU College of Distance Education and Training.
“Because of seat availability and logistical concerns, only a small number are able to attend the resident courses, which are not offered in this region,” said Hopkins. “Having a distance education program brings the PME to the service members.”
With the additional educational possibilities, the military’s leaders are continuing to make well-informed and timely decisions, as a result of educational opportunities, according to Hopkins.
“We have (good) leaders today, who are keeping up with a complex world,” said Hopkins.
Enriched leadership is precisely what the courses are meant to stimulate, according to Hopkins.
“It’s about professional military education and improving their ability to be effective Marine Air-Ground Task Force officers,” according to Hopkins, a retired Marine colonel.
The coursework challenged the students in multiple ways, according to U.S. Navy Lt. Randy Gire, a graduate of the Command and Staff College, and medical planner with III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“During the course, we had lengthy discussions about how to apply the subject matter,” said Gire, a Tampa, Fla., native. “It’s very interesting going through the course and seeing where we (medical officers) fit in.”
Being able to understand a larger perspective is an ideal trait in anyone, but especially for military members, according to U.S. Navy Lt. Dave Crain, a graduate of the CSC and officer in charge for Deployment Health, U.S. Navy Hospital Okinawa.
“Being able to grasp the role each job plays in the grand scheme is huge,” said Crain, a San Rafael, Calif., native. “Not only am I a more effective leader, but those under my charge will be more efficient, whatever the mission.”
The high operational tempo of III MEF also presented a challenge to the students as they found a balance between their professional and personal lives to attend the night classes and accomplish assignments.
“This is a very busy MEF,” said Brig. Gen. Niel E. Nelson, the commanding general of 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF. “To have staff and officers fulfill their professional requirements, as well as balance their personal life with these classes is very commendable.”
The balance achieved by the graduates earned further remarks of admiration and encouragement from Nelson.
“I can’t be more proud of all of you for what you’ve done and how you’ve done this,” Nelson said in his address to the class. “You make a difference in your life, your service, and to all the people around you in all the things that you do.”