KABUL, Afghanistan – Some of Columbus' deployed Georgia Army National Guard Unit, 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Task Force Hydra, soldiers are taking classes while they are here as a way of passing free time, some to get started on a degree, and others are trying to complete their degrees - but no matter what the reason, they are all taking advantage of receiving a higher education as well as the tuition assistance that is available to them.
Most soldiers know that taking classes while they are here will help them in their military careers and after the military when they pursue or enhance their civilian careers.
Maj. James D. Collie, the assistant operations center officer, teaches a criminal justice class for Central Texas College on Camp Phoenix at the education center two nights a week.
Collie believes that there is a difference in teaching here from in the United States.
“Anybody that takes the time to want to better themselves, and take the extra time to go over there at night and sit and listen to me talk about stuff on their time, I think it means a lot. I think that somebody who takes classes in a war zone should be commended for going that extra mile,” said Collie.
Sgt. Dedrick M. Walton, the real property manager in the Department of Public Works on Camp Phoenix, stated that class instructors like Maj. Collie know what they are teaching because he's worked in the criminal justice field for several years, and use experience and knowledge to teach classes.
“I think it’s awesome that Central Texas and the other schools that are here offer the classes in an area like this where students can pursue their education, because when you’re stuck over here, sometimes you need a diversion from the bad stuff that’s going on, so I think it’s a good opportunity for the students. I commend them [the schools] for being here to offer that to the soldier,” said Collie.
Collie stated he's had many branches of service in his classes such as the Marines, special forces, and the Army, and that his classes have very diverse groups; there are no specific job categories that the students who take his class work in - just those that come to learn.
Attending college allows service members more opportunities for promotions and interaction with other students. Master Sgt. Tony E. Pounds, who attends three courses currently, thinks it is important for advancement and learning things that that he did not know previously, as well as meeting new people and interacting with them.
“Going to school over here is hard but most of the teachers are soldiers too and they understand that we may not make it to class a couple of days. The key is to just stay focused,” said Maranda D. Stubbs of the commanders aide.
“The good thing about going to college while I am deployed is that it puts something civilian back in my life, which helps. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference in how things turn out,” said Stubbs.