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thedrifter
01-27-06, 01:22 PM
Extra time? Bored? Educate yourself
MCB Quantico
Story by Cpl. Susan Smith

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. (Jan. 26, 2006) -- Some Marines stationed at Quantico complain about a lack of things to do on the nights and weekends. Some spend countless hours hanging out in the barracks, playing video games because they cannot think of anything else to do. Others take advantage of free time to pave the way for a bright future.

Whether it is to become more competitive for promotion or to prepare for a career outside the military, Marines have the opportunity to earn academic degrees during off-duty hours on base, in the local area, or online.

Staff Sgt. John Q. Beaty, a technical control engineer, pinned on his current rank this month with seven and a half years in the Corps. Within that time, he earned an associate’s degree in general studies, a bachelor’s degree in business management, and is working toward his master’s in information technology. He believes his off-duty education helped him stand out among the other Marines on the staff noncommissioned officer board.

“They see your photo, how old you are, your (general technical) score, and then right after that is your education,” he said. “It is one of the first things they look at. So, for me, it was a big amplifier.”

Beaty joined the Corps right out of high school to get away from school. But after basic training, he found himself sitting in a classroom for nine months to train for his military occupational specialty. It was after the extensive electronics training that he understood the importance of education.

“Every available minute I’ve had since I’ve joined the Marine Corps, I’ve been going to school,” he said. “And I encourage everyone, especially at Quantico because it’s a non-deployable base, to take some classes.”

The first step toward a degree is visiting the base’s Lifelong Learning Center.

Every Marine has a Sailor-Marine American Counsel on Education Registry Transcript, or SMART, which documents each leatherneck’s military schooling and education such as boot camp, MOS training, follow-on schools, and Marine Corps Institutes. The transcript converts the military training to college credits that can be used toward a degree.

According to Beaty’s SMART, he had more than 30 credits before ever setting foot in a college classroom.

“A lot of Marines are closer than they thought,” said Kathy Marsh, an education technician at Quantico.

The next step is determining which school to attend and which program to take. Then it is time to think about what school to go to and what degree to pursue. Representatives from seven schools are available daily at Quantico’s Lifelong Learning Center to talk to Marines about earning a degree, and seven more schools are available on a scheduled basis. The school representative goes over the SMART with the Marine to see what credits transfer toward a particular chosen field of study.

According to Marsh, the most popular fields among Quantico Marines are information technology, business and management, criminal justice and general studies.

Marines can opt to take classes on base, in the local area or online with distance learning. Using Tuition Assistance, classes are free, and book fees are covered as well for certain school.

Because classes and schoolwork can be time consuming, Beaty recommends taking just one class per semester to “get in the swing of things.”

“Some people fill their plates up too much, and they can’t eat it all,” Beaty said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

While some Marines visit the office eager to take on the college challenge, others are unsure of their ability. Some are lack confidence because they have been out of high school for a long time. Others are unsure because they struggled to make passing grades in high school.

“We’ve found that even students who did poorly in high school have a wonderful success rate in college,” Marsh said. “Now, they are going to school for their own benefit, because they want to not because Mom and Dad are making them.”

But if a Marine is still hesitant about jumping on the track to a college degree, the education office offers Military Academic Skills Program. MASP is a three-week program that teaches basic math and language arts to prepare Marines for college or to raise Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery scores.

Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support and the College Level Examination Program allow military members to test out of a course. DANTES and CLEP tests are a quick way to earn credits in areas the student is already well-versed.

Marsh urges Marines to stop into the education office to see how they can help.

“There are several ways of doing education right,” Marsh said, “the only way to do education wrong it to not do it.”

Ellie