By Staff Sgt. Rob Strain, 15th Sustainment Brigade Public AffairsDecember 9, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas - Noncommissioned officers from across the 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), gathered Dec. 2 at the Clear Creek Community Event Center here to learn up on education opportunities available to them and their Soldiers.
The program, called NCO professional development, is conducted monthly by the brigade on a wide range of topics.
Frances Judkins, a guidance counselor with Fort Hood's Education Services Division, said she wanted the NCOs to know what benefits are available, as well as future programs and the changes they might bring.
During the session, she explained the Army will pay for 100 percent of tuition for colleges in the GoArmyEd.com system, but there are some limitations.
First, the Soldier must have a current Statement of Understanding signed by their commander, and they cannot have favorable actions suspended through things like Army Physical Fitness Test failure, overweight or pending legal actions.
Judkins also said there is a limit on how much money each Soldier is entitled to for each class and fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sep. 30.
The tuition assistance is limited to $250 per semester hour and $4,500 per fiscal year.
She also said the Army's tuition assistance can only be used to advance a Soldier's education, meaning once a Soldier earns a degree, they can only work to pursue a higher degree.
Judkins said this includes Soldiers who may have a degree when they join the Army, but it doesn't mean Soldiers have to pursue the same path.
Soldiers can make changes to their degree, and even pursue a higher degree that is completely different than one they have already earned, Judkins said.
For example, Soldiers who earn an associate degree in general studies, can pursue a bachelor's degree in computer science, and then a master's degree in criminal justice.
Judkins told the NCOs even when they deploy, they can continue to take classes since many classes from a number of colleges are offered completely online, but they may not be able to get the exact class they are looking for.
Besides college classes, Judkins talked about the Leader Skills Enhancement classes for NCOs, which are on-duty classes meant to assist in making NCOs better supervisors, managers and communicators.
Command Sgt. Maj. Nathaniel Bartee Sr., the brigade's senior enlisted advisor, told the gathered NCOs it is their responsibility to ensure their Soldiers get educated, and he challenged every Soldier in the brigade to earn an associate degree.
Bartee told the NCOs to think about where they want to be 10 or 15 years from now, and how a college education might help them get there.
He said that Soldiers today have no reasons not to get an education while in the Army.
"Nobody is too busy," Bartee said, adding that it might take working on schoolwork late into the night every once in a while.
"You can't sit back on the porch and say 'I want this, and I want that,'" Bartee said. "You have to get out there and claim what's yours."