By Franklin FisherApril 11, 2016
CAMP RED CLOUD -- Warrior Country leaders are mounting a drive to boost Soldier enrollment in college courses.
The campaign, now in its start-up stages, will look to encourage Soldiers -- junior enlisted and noncommissioned officers alike, to sign up for college courses, said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael L. Berry, the U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I's senior enlisted leader.
The push will also encourage junior officers to continue their education, especially at the master's degree level, Berry said.
Area I officials are taking these steps after Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal, the Commanding General of 8th Army, called recently for a vigorous effort to encourage increased Soldier enrollment in college courses Korea-wide, said Berry.
For Area I, the main thrust of that effort will focus on getting several main points across to Soldiers in Area I, he said.
Soldiers will be reminded that college education benefits them by making them better qualified to meet the demands of their military service, and gives them points toward promotion. They'll also be reminded that even after military service, having a college degree will help their employment prospects while also better equipping them for the responsibilities of good citizenship, Berry said.
In addition, the campaign will look to surmount what Area I leaders say may be the biggest hindrance to Soldier enrollment in college: the mistaken idea many Soldiers harbor that their Korea tours of duty are too short and busy with regular duties to allow time for college courses.
Most Soldiers in Area I serve one-year tours. Some others are here on nine-month rotational tours.
"I think that the biggest obstacle with education is that a lot of Soldiers don't see it as achievable because of the other things that they do," said Berry. "They get involved with driving trucks, they get involved with being crewmen on a tank or on a Bradley [Fighting Vehicle]. Those things kind of take up their time and focus. It weighs too much for 'em.
"So my goal is to, hopefully -- myself and with the other command sergeants major -- say 'Hey, this is achievable. This is attainable. And not only is it good for your career but it's just great self-improvement as a person. We should not ever stop educating ourselves,'" Berry said.
The campaign will also encourage noncommissioned officers to respond favorably when their Soldiers express interest in college enrollment, he said.
"We have to be examples for the Soldier," Berry said of NCOs. "So in order to do that, we have to encourage the mid-grade leaders to go to college to involve themselves in that experience. And then come back and they can talk their Soldiers through the experience, and encourage them."
To gets their points across to Soldiers, Area I leaders will rely in part on printed materials they'll be drawing up in coming days and weeks, said Berry.
They also plan to get their message out on social media and over the garrison's "What's The Word?" radio news broadcast, which airs every other Thursday at 3 p.m. on AFN Casey (88.3/88.5).
Area I education centers meanwhile are gearing up to support the enrollment effort, said Glen Ranes, Education Services Specialist with the USAG Red Cloud and Area I's Directorate of Human Resources.
"The biggest one is the fact that a lot of them believe they don't have time," said Ranes. "I have Soldiers who walk in every day who tell me, 'My sergeants tell me I don't have time to take a class,'" said Ranes. "We need to change that to walking in and saying, 'My sergeant sent me here to take a class.'"
In fact, said Ranes, if units find ways to create time for their Soldiers to take college courses, Soldiers in Korea for nine to 12 months can earn up to 15 semester hours of college work.
"Yes, you do have your duties," Ranes said of Soldiers, "yes, your duties come first, and yes, you still can get some course work done."
To help Soldiers meet the challenge of their regular duties while also doing college study, several possible actions are being considered, Ranes said.
For example, he said, some classes could be scheduled during lunch periods. In some cases instructors could travel to training areas and hold classes there.
Soldiers wanting to explore college enrollment possibilities can call or visit Area I's education centers: on Camp Casey, building S-1757, phone: 730-1826; Camp Red Cloud, building S-58, 732-6329.
Center staff are trained and ready to Soldiers with a wide range of college enrollment and other educational needs, Ranes said.