By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterOctober 26, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Continuing education isn't only important for people who are trying to transition out of military life, but vital for those who want to advance within the Army's ranks or are associated with Army life.
That's why the Fort Rucker Education Center held its Fall Education Fair Oct. 20 as a way to connect with not only the Soldier population on post, but family members, as well, said Randy McNally, education center supervisory education specialist.
"We really pushed it to the community because these education fairs are just for that -- to support the community and getting more of a mindset into education goals and furthering that, and to find out what's available to them," said McNally. "The goal was to bring in more programs, so that people see what's offered out there, see the opportunities for them, and see the programs that might fit them better than just what schools we have specifically here on post."
The fair had institutions from across the U.S. that people could inquire about and get information on, including schools from Florida and Alabama, as well as Virginia and California.
With a unique population on the installation, McNally said it was vital to be able to provide a myriad of options for those who are seeking to further their education.
"The Army Continuing Education System is set up to find the best quality schools and the best programs that fit the specific community that they're working for," said the supervisory education specialist. "On Fort Rucker, we have a unique situation where we have a lot of flight school students and minimal permanent party, so we try to link up specific schools directly to that type of training, but also offer short-term programs for spouses that are here."
For one of those Soldiers, Sgt. Toni Green, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, the education fair was a perfect way to help her reach her goal of advancing her career.
Green, who has a bachelor's degree in health science, is looking to pursue her master's degree in hopes that it not only helps set her apart from other Soldiers, but sets her up for life outside the military, as well.
"I'm just looking to find a program that I can get into that's online that is military friendly because this helps you to go higher in rank faster and quicker than your peers (who don't have a degree)," she said. "That's not to say that you can't make rank without an education, but it just sets you apart from everybody and when you get to the ranks when they're no longer looking at promotion points but focusing on what makes you different from somebody else with the same set of skills, it just looks better."
The fair isn't set up just for Soldiers, though, as one military spouse found out. Kacey Dowling, who arrived to Fort Rucker a week ago, said the education fair came at the perfect time while she and her family were transitioning into their life on the installation.
"We're brand new to Fort Rucker and, as a spouse, you have to find something for yourself to do, whether you're going to work or staying at home and taking care of your kids," she said. "But since my kids are both school age now, I figured it was a perfect opportunity for me to go back to school and get my master's degree."
Dowling already has a degree in history and her objective has always been to become a teacher, but her children inspired her to reach further and advance her education, so that she might be able to touch more lives.
"I happen to have two children who have special needs, so I'd like to change the area of teaching into the special education field, and that's why I want to pursue the master's degree," she said. "I taught special education in a preschool setting (during a long-term substitution position) and it was just the most amazing experience ever. I loved the kids and I loved the parents, so now I just need to go and get certified."
As a spouse, Dowling said it's important for family members to try to find their place in the Army, especially with the transient lifestyle that they come accustomed to. Education is just one of those ways that spouses and family members can keep one step ahead.
"When you move so often, you have to reinvent and recreate yourself," she said. "Going back to starting school when you move is just a great way to rebuild and reinvent yourself, and bring yourself up a notch."