News: Hawaii Marine leaders expand knowledge, perspective with distance education programs
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
Despite the challenges of completing professional military education requirements amidst busy schedules and the military’s high operational tempo, 55 service members were honored for their dedication by graduating from the Hawaii Satellite Campus of the College of Distance Education and Training’s Expeditionary Warfare School, and Command and Staff College Distance Education Programs at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii theater, May 19, 2011.
The graduation marked the thirteenth CSCDEP graduation and the twelfth for EWSDEP from the Hawaii Satellite Campus. Though the majority of the graduates were Marines, the CSCDEP graduates included service members from the Army and Navy.
The CDET, formerly known as the College of Continuing Education, offers a distance education alternative for the completion of requisite PME for the approximately 80 percent of officers who don’t have the opportunity to attend resident schools, Cos Spofford, regional chief instructor, CSCDEP, said.
“The Marine Corps would like to send all our officers to formal education, but we can’t,” Col. James E. Reilly, chief of staff, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, said. The graduation’s guest speaker cited operational demands and small numbers of school seats as limiting factors. “The CDET allows us to get the same level of education, with the same intensity as a resident course. It’s structured to address the fact that these officers are assigned operationally, and have responsibilities on top of being students.”
The CDET’s two courses — offered at nine locations Corpswide — are structured for completion over two academic years in 70 weekly, two-hour seminar sessions. William Peoples, regional coordinator, CDET, and a retired Marine colonel, said students spend approximately four hours on their own time preparing for each session.
Expeditionary Warfare School, designed for captains and chief warrant officers three, has seven courses that focus on the tactical level of war. Command and Staff College is designed for majors and chief warrant officers four, consists of eight courses and focuses more on the operational level of war.
Maj. Steve Mansour, director, Communication and Information Systems Directorate, and one of CSCDEP’s distinguished graduates, said completing the school locally “makes school efficient” by allowing Marine officers to complete the requirements while they work in operational billets, as opposed to leaving their duty stations for a year to attend a resident school.
“We’ve learned a much larger perspective of how the Marine Corps operates — from how to plan larger, joint-service operations, to how to work with foreign militaries,” Mansour, from Temple Hills, Md., said. “It’s taken us to another level we didn’t reach as much as company grade officers. It fills in the gaps and brings everyone onto the same page with operational issues.”
As he addressed the graduates, Reilly reminisced about working through the Marine Corps’ old “Box of Books” military education program as a young officer — a program which had Marines read several books, learn their contents and perform multiple choice tests. The program, which had only a 15 to 18 percent completion rate, was replaced by the Officer’s PME Distance Learning Seminar program in July 1998, and has developed continually since then.
“They are adjusting the curriculum to advance, increase and expand opportunities for Marines to learn, as if you’re all sitting in classrooms in Quantico, Va.,” Reilly, from Carlsbad, Calif., said.
While high operational demands over the past several years have increased the average amount of time required to complete the courses, the CDET has been working to expand Marines’ learning opportunities by giving officers the option to continue studies via online seminars, Peoples said. He added that this makes the two-year construct a more achievable goal, and prevents deployments, temporary additional duty and remote assignments from hampering professional development.
Now, Peoples said, nearly one in six of the course’s graduates finished the entire program online from deployed or remote duty locations.
“The completion of officer PME, whether resident or distance, demonstrates a professional commitment to the organization as a whole, and to the individual,” Reilly said. “When they’ve completed it, the organization recognizes them, and now they’re more competitive [for promotion] as they move up.”
The road to graduation may have been challenging, but Reilly said the students’ dedicated work is helping to rise up the new generation of Marine leaders.
Gesturing toward the graduates seated in front of the stage, Reilly said, “The future of the Marine Corps is sitting right here.”
This work, Hawaii Marine leaders expand knowledge, perspective with distance education programs, by Sgt Reece Lodder, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.