FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- A lot has happened in the three years since the last DoD Worldwide Education Symposium was held, all the more reason for Soldiers to attend. That it is being held right next door in Atlanta is just one more reason to go.

The 2009 DoD Symposium, held July 27 through 30 at the Marriott Atlanta Marquis, will be open to uniformed servicemembers free of charge July 29 from 10:45 a.m. until 3 p.m., said Master Chief Petty Officer Timothy Zernick, special enlisted advisor for the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support. Family members over the age of 18 will also be admitted at no cost with a military sponsor.

Retirees can attend for $40.

Zernick, who visited Fort McPherson to promote the event April 20 at the Fort McPherson Education Center, said the symposium is a unique opportunity to learn and network.

"The main benefit of the symposium is making contacts," he said, noting that exhibitor space sold out months before the event, with more than 20 on the waiting list. Currently, the more than 160 vendors include colleges and businesses from across the country, as well as distance education-based higher education.

With the gap between military and civilian certification rapidly closing, Zernick said the symposium can also educate people on opportunities their military experience can carry in the civilian sector, as well as other testing certification options available.

Another topic Zernick said is on the forefront of servicemembers minds is the new Post-9/11 GI Bill.

"It has an impact on all servicemembers," he said of the bill, which covers the full cost of education at any public school in the country and many private schools for veterans who served more than 90 days after Sept. 11, 2001.

With the new bill taking effect Aug. 1, the day after the last day of the symposium, the conference offers a chance to iron out any last-minute questions, Zernick added.
"This is a very unique opportunity. Soldiers will definitely benefit from attending," Zernick said. "This won't happen again for a long time."

The Atlanta Marriot Marquis Hotel is located at 265 Peachtree Center Ave.
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