FORWARD OPERATING BASE WOLVERINE, Afghanistan – When 1st Sgt. Robert A. Herfel set out to establish a Fundamental Academic Skills Training class at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Afghanistan, it wasn’t just a matter of gathering books and students. The small outpost in the Zabul province didn’t even have an education center. So Herfel began buildings desks out of extra wood he found around the FOB.
“I spent a day building desks so we’d have a suitable classroom for students to learn comfortably,” said Herfel, the first sergeant of Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, Task Force Viper.
Herfel, a soldiers Grove, Wis., native, transformed a space in his own office, the FOB Wolverine Motor Pool, into the classroom where he helps soldiers increase their General Technical scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.
The class reinforces basic reading and mathematics skills, said Herfel, targeting the three components of the general technical score: word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, and arithmetic reasoning. An improved score allows soldiers to have broader choices in their military occupation specialty, or MOS.
Twenty students enrolled in the first six-week iteration, which meets four times a week for two and a half hours a night.
Spc. Nathalie Aquino, one of Herfel’s students and a petroleum supply specialist with E Co., 1-3 AVN, said she takes the class in order to explore the opportunities within her career field.
“The FAST class is very helpful for me,” said Spc. Aquino, a Livermore, Calif., native. “First Sgt. Herfel makes sure we understand the basics, and if we don’t, he will find a way to easily explain the problem until we do.”
Command Sgt. Major George M. Dove, the Task Force Viper command sergeant major, said Herfel’s motivation to educate his Soldiers was extraordinary.
“It is awesome to have noncommissioned officers who are willing to teach and train soldiers in areas outside their MOS,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Dove. “This is a great opportunity for our soldiers.”
It’s all part of being a noncommissioned officer, said Herfel.
“As an NCO, I feel it is my job to teach, coach, and mentor soldiers to not only be trained and good at their job, but to expand their opportunity to be successful at life, even after the military,” said 1st Sgt. Herfel. “Education is the best way I can help my soldiers grow."