By Heather Huber, Fort Campbell CourierNovember 22, 2017
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Soldiers crowded into the Staff Sgt. Glenn H. English Jr. Army Education Center Nov. 15 to take part in the Fort Campbell Education Center Education and Veteran resources Fair the theme was "Achieving Excellence While Serving."
About 20 agencies, including the Veteran Service Organization and TRICARE, filled the lobby with tables, while upstairs representatives from 25 continuing education schools crowded into two rooms to allow Soldiers and retirees to visit them all with ease.
"This week is education week, so we have an education and resource fair for Veterans Day," said Yolanda Murrey, chief counselor Army Continuing Education Program. "We're having it because a lot of times Soldiers as well as Family members and civilians come in and ask to speak to a rep, so we give them this option twice a year."
Murrey said the staff invites schools based on the needs of the Soldiers, as well as the level of enrollment from the community.
"We actually send [the school] an invitation two or three months in advance so they have time to plan for it," she said.
Murrey said she invites schools with a variety of majors, but she has had many requests for information technology, nursing, engineering, business and even gunsmithing.
She said the education center has the resources fair at the same time so that Soldiers and Family members can get all the information they need in a single day.
"We mainly do it so [students] can have face-to-face [communication]," Murrey said. "You can talk to them on the phone or online, but some people like face-to-face."
Murrey said although the people who come the most are transitioning Soldiers, the fairs are designed to be for everyone in the community. She hopes that everyone who comes to the fair finds a program and enrolls in school.
"A lot of people say they come and they want to go to school, but they don't actually do it," Murrey said. "I figure if they come see the actual college representative face-to-face, they'll look and say 'I didn't know that you had this program.'"
Murrey said by allowing potential students to talk to a representative and get a better understanding of what they need to do to achieve their educational goals, they are more likely to actually enroll in a school.
Private First Class Dana Martini, MEDDAC, came to the fair to get more information on continuing her education and to learn more about which schools would be best suited to her needs.
"Just trying to wrap my head around everything I guess," she said. "Right now I'm leaning more toward environmental science and seeing where my MOS could lead me in the future."
Martini said she liked the variety of work environmental science would offer her, as well as the chance to be outside more often.
"Especially in my MOS, getting to go around post, see everything, getting to inspect all the DFACs and making sure everyone stays healthy at my end of the deal," she said.
Originally from Michigan, Martini talked to every representative of a school that offered environmental science.
"I just kind of wanted to see roughly what they were all about," she said. "I really liked Southern New Hampshire. That one seemed to really have everything that I was looking for."
Right now Martini is just looking to do all of her prerequisites online before signing up to be a full-time student on a physical campus. "I want to do online for the most part, but when I get to the portion of my schooling where hands on is more needed, I don't really want to have to figure it out online," she said.
Martini encourages people to come to education fairs because it helped her narrow down what she was looking for.
"For me school is very overwhelming. It gives me an insane amount of anxiety," she said. "School is not usually very easy for me, so this is definitely very helpful and [I] unloaded a lot of stress by talking to a lot of people."
Bobby McDaniel retired from Fort Campbell in 2015. He has decided he is ready to take his career to the next level by continuing his education.
"I'm actually already in school for OSHA," he said. "They have a lot of career opportunities and if I don't want to specifically do one field I can just use that degree in general for something else that I want to do."
McDaniel said he also likes occupational safety and health administration because it does not require a lot of strenuous activity.
"I get to push pencils all day," he said. "I want to get old one day, and I don't want to have to walk around in rain or any of that."
McDaniel said he picked the closest school that offered a good online program, but believes the education fair can help open doors for people who do not know what is available to them.
"Take this gunsmith guy, I didn't even know schools like that existed," he said. "So I think that'll be something I want to do on the side because I love my guns, I love my fire arms."
McDaniels said he looked into school before he retired, but felt he had too many other responsibilities. But now that he is retired and does not have any Soldiers to worry about, he is ready to focus on himself.
"I'm the only one who is going to fail if I don't make it," he said.
Murrey said anywhere between 300-500 students trickle through the fairs throughout the day and at least 50 students sign up for school each time.
"We have so much to offer," Murrey said. "If you can get on post, if you can get in the education center, you can use our services … We just like to give the schools the opportunity to come themselves and talk their program."