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    Training is Continuous, So is Education



    Story by Lance Cpl. Grace Kindred 

    Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego

    How feasible is getting a college education in the military? For some, this seems like something they cannot get done. Others may feel that they do not need a college education because they joined the military, nor do they have time. According to GySgt Jose Flores, Chief Drill Instructor for Fox Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, not only is it possible, but it will benefit Marines in and out of the Marine Corps. Flores has been pursuing his education for over ten years now.

    Flores is from Cotulla, Texas, and was recruited out of San Antonio, Texas, and began his Marine Corps career straight out of high school in 2008. Flores started college while in the Marine Corps because of a commitment he made to his mother. At the young age of 17, Flores needed parental consent to join the Marines, and his mother signed the paperwork on the promise that he would get a degree.
    "I came from a background where no one in my family had a college degree," said Flores, "It was a promise that I made to my mother."

    Keeping his promise, Flores earned his associate's degree with Central Texas College in Okinawa, Japan, in 2009. To earn this degree, Flores took on-campus classes at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. Camp Hansen had classes available for students to take in-classroom classes, much like any base in the Marine Corps. Flores continued and earned his Bachelor's degree in 2012 in Arts and phycology at Ashford University. While earning his Bachelor's degree all online, Flores spent seven months deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. "It was extremely busy," said Flores

    After earning his Bachelor's degree, Flores didn’t stop pursuing an education, despite fulfilling the commitment to his mother.

    "I fell in love with it. In high school, I graduated with a GPA of 3.2, and then by my Master's, I was at a 4.0," said Flores, "The Marine Corps was giving me all the tools I needed, and the lessons learned allowed me to get smarter over time."

    On graduation day, there were two separate lines of graduates; Bachelor's and Master's graduates. Flores got in line to walk the stage in cap and gown, accidentally stepping in the wrong line.

    "There was a group of young ladies who saw I was in the wrong line, and they all kind of laughed at me," said Flores, "they said 'you’re in the wrong line, the Bachelors are over there, this is the Master's program. Maybe one day you will be here.' And when I got back to the line, all I could think about was how I was going to come back and get a Master's degree."

    That was the push that sent Flores on the way to get his Master's degree.
    "I thought 'I have to go back,' and right away, the next day I called the university and enrolled into my Master's program, and that same month I started the program."

    The next day, Flores went back to Ashford University and enrolled in his first class towards his Master's degree. While taking classes online, Flores was serving as a recruiter in New York from 2013-2017. He spent his first years in New York at Recruiting Substation Patchogue, Long Island, N.Y., then transitioned to Recruiting Substation Ridgewood, Queens, N.Y. as the staff non-commissioned officer in charge. While on the demanding schedule of a recruiter, Flores found time to take classes and earn his Master's degree in business, emphasizing organizational leadership in 2014.

    "I think that was my strongest selling point while recruiting, because I think our biggest competitor for the military is college," said Flores. "Throughout high school, students were told to go to college, to get that degree,' so I think that is instilled into them. So I used that as my best selling point- to utilize the Marine Corps as that stepping stone to get that education, minus all the debt that normally comes with it."

    Flores arrived to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego and became a drill instructor in 2019. While making Marines, Flores is currently taking online and on-campus classes to earn his Doctorates in education with Grand Canyon University.

    "At the end of the day, you are physically exhausted, and the first thing you want to do is rest," said Flores. "For me, if we got off at 2100, I would dedicate another two hours toward my studies. It was obviously very difficult and exhausting, but every day that I did stay up and do assignments, I knew I was getting that much closer to my degree."

    There are times when Flores only gets one to four hours of sleep at night, and during the day, if he has an hour or some time off, he will use it to attend school or call his professor.

    "I took my own advice, I am not making excuses, I am fully capable, and I will use my time wisely," said Flores.

    Flores plans to finish his degree within the next few months and will walk the stage in October. With his degree, he will be able to get a job as a professor at a university. Flores wants to continue serving in the Marine Corps but also wants to get another Master's degree in Political Science.

    "Even after earning my Doctoral, I want to earn multiple degrees, so we will see where life takes me at that point," said Flores.

    Flores is passionate about promoting education in the Marine Corps to encourage Marines and those thinking of joining to pursue higher education.

    "It is completely possible, and it is important to show enlisted Marines that it is 100% achievable and that it could reap benefits," said Flores. "I think the Marine Corps actually helped me in college, it helped me develop those intangibles and taught me about responsibility, self-improvement, and all the core values the Marine Corps teaches you. I was organized, and so I think it made the journey a lot easier. I felt like I was in a more focused avenue as a Marine, rather than if I just went straight into college. I think I might have been distracted, being young, and the first time being out of my house."

    Education in the Marine Corps is much work, but it will give you an advantage not only after the Marine Corps, but in the Marine Corps as well. For example, Marines with college classes are more competitive when it comes to promotion.

    "I did get promoted pretty fast, I was meritorious Corporal, meritorious Sergeant, meritorious Staff Sergeant, and because I did compete on those meritorious boards, I have an education, I was definitely one step above my peers," said Flores. "It did allow me to excel; I have won every board and I think my education was one of my impressive qualities."

    College has also helped Flores in his job, being able to professionally read and write and lead not only his subordinates, but also his peers and superiors.

    "In the Marine Corps you do a lot of writing; it has helped me articulate, communicate, write, take care of the Maines under me, and help guide those above me," said Flores.
    A college education is encouraged for everyone and is available to every Marine who seeks it. If you are interested in earning a degree, reach out.

    "Just because you have a college degree does not mean you have to go officer, or they are the only ones educated," said Flores, "It is important to share the message that enlisted also have that capability to earn higher education without going into officer ranks."

    Flores has two pieces of advice for those who are thinking of getting a college education. The first piece of advice is to stop making excuses.

    "Get started. I think the biggest thing when it comes to education, even if you are a poolee, a Pfc, or a MSgt, there is always that fear of getting started because they do not know how or where," said Flores, "I would challenge them to reach out to individuals who are educated to see how. College is designed to understand that some people have been out of school for a while. They are going to build you up gradually. Get started, take that first step."

    The second piece of advice is to develop good time management.

    "Time management, and eliminate the excuses," said Flores. "If you were to eliminate Marine's excuses and break down their time, you could see how much time they are on their phone or on social media, or watching TV, what time they go to sleep…reflect and use their time wisely."

    When a Marine is ready to take on the challenge of pursuing an education, they can go to their base's education center, where Marines can go to ask questions and get started on the path to becoming a college student. College while serving can be intimidating, but the Marine Corps offers many resources to help better each individual.

    "Ultimately, the mission of the Marine Corps is to return quality citizens back to society," said Flores, "so will all the intangibles the Marine Corps teaches you; you can also leave with a degree, go back to the market, and be compatible."



    Date Taken: 06.03.2021
    Date Posted: 06.07.2021 18:44
    Story ID: 398341
    Location: SAN DIEGO, CA, US 

    Web Views: 94
    Downloads: 0