Degrees of separation
Specialists Emily Chambers and Yuanjun Li, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery, prepare for graduation from Basic Combat Training March 28, 2014. They are two of four trainees who entered the Army with master's degrees. Among their battery peers are also a doctor and 27 other Soldiers with four-year degrees.

FORT SILL, Okla. (April 3, 2014) -- With 27 four-year degrees, six master's degrees and one doctorate, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery is a highly educated group of Basic Combat Training Soldiers.

Charles Loefke, B/1-40th FA training technician, said this is the most trainees with higher education he's seen in his years serving there.

He said they usually have one or two Soldiers with master's degrees, but he believes the reason there are so many joining the newest ranks of the Army is because of the economy ... but that's not entirely true.

Spc. Yuanjun Li, originally from Hubei Province, China said she was looking for a purpose. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in actuarial mathematics and a B.S. in international business with a concentration in finance. She also began her master's degree in professional accounting when she earned her certified public accounting.

"I want something that's meaningful and challenging. So I always push myself to explore new things, new areas. That's why I have so many different degrees," said Li.

Li came to the United States in 2005, and was living with a host family in Hampden, Maine. After college Li worked in New York, as an international tax service speccialist. advising multinational companies like GE and Verizon with their tax returns.

"While that work was challenging I didn't find it to be too meaningful so I switched to actuarial mathematics and I went to Travelers in Hartford, Conn."

She said her work there was proactive in using statistics from the past to calculate risk management for the future. She liked the teamwork, but still felt something was missing.

"I still [didn't] feel that was the purpose of my life. We have a huge veteran base in Travelers so I decided maybe the Army is the right thing for me so that's why I'm here today."

Trading in her 9-to-5 schedule behind a desk for field training was challenging, but she said she used her mental strength to get through.

"When I first signed the contract I couldn't run at all. I tried to run for five minutes and I thought I was going to black out. But I think if you're mind is strong enough -- you think you can do it, your body will be able to perform it."

Li ran a 15:32 two-mile run and scored a 297 out of 300 overall on her last Army Physical Fitness Test.

She's not the only Soldier who had to adjust their physical toughness to meet their mental stamina.

Spc. Emily Chambers from North Easton, Mass., is admittedly book-smart.

"School wasn't always challenging for me because it was just what I was good at. This was challenging and I think that was a good education in itself. I wasn't the most physically fit, I wasnt' the best shot, I wasn't the best at throwing grenades and so it was just very different to be in that setting and be really really challenged," said Chambers.

She has a bachelor's in philosophy and a master's in public policy. She said it was tough finding a job to match her educational background, but is planning the National Guard will give her that chance.

"I'm going in as an officer and that ties in pretty closely with public policy -- it's creating policy and enforcing them so I think one will support the other. It seems like a good fit," said Chambers.

DOCTOR IN TRAINING
Although in BCT he is simply known as Kumar, Spc. (doctor) Sandeep Kumar is a certified veterinarian.

He came to the United States from Punjab, India, with the goal of a long-time career. One of his childhood friends is a captain in the Army and told him of the ample opportunities available to someone with his skill set.

Kumar is going to advanced individual training, but he's also applying to the Army Veterniary Corps in plans of using his skills as a veterinarian.

Unlike some medical students, Kumar did not join the U.S. Army to pay back student loans. In fact, he was ranked 16th in India in his veterinary exams and gained admission as a paid student into the Indian Veterinary Research Institute.

"Veterinary medicine has always been my passion. When your profession becomes your passion then your skills automatically improve," said Kumar. "I love internal medicine and especially emergency medicine and repair surgeries, soft tissue surgeries, cancer -- I like to cure them."

He said he decided to practice medicine here because the conditions are better.

"In the United States the science is more advanced: the machines, the types of surgeries we do here they're different. They are [quicker] than what we do in India. For example if you do an exploratory on an open stomach surgery in India sometimes the patient can deteriorate based on the hygienic issues. Here those things go smoothly. That's the reason I came here," said Kumar.

"I never saw laser surgeries [before]. I learned laser surgeries here. When you use a laser there is no bleeding in the tissue. Here veterinarian medicine is quite cool I can say."

Kumar like his fellow Soldiers who graduated from BCT March 28 said he feels physically fit and mentally tough.

As far as his educational experience in BCT, Kumar said it is one of determination and teamwork which started with his drill sergeant's first words to him and his fellow trainees.

"He said he will never quit on us until we quit on ourselves. Those were the strongest words of motivation," said Kumar.

Page last updated Thu April 3rd, 2014 at 00:00