Soldier in spotlight puts education on FAST track
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Spc. Mike Berry is a 91B, wheeled vehicle mechanic, assigned to 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) motor pool, and has been in the Army for 18 months. JBM-HH is his first duty assignment and he has taken full advantage of all the education benefits and services the Army has to offer.

One of those services which has had a clear affect in making his education goals achievable has been the Army's FAST program offered by the Fort Myer Education Center. FAST stands for Functional Academic Skills Training and provides Soldiers with on-duty instruction in reading and math.

Berry, who grew up in Jamaica, joined the Army and scored a 94 on his ASVAB test. He became a wheeled vehicle mechanic, but wanted to go further with his career and education.

"In Jamaica, if you're lucky enough, you go through high school and then from there you're either stuck in a corner store or you are stuck in the streets or doing farming," said Berry. "I was one of the privileged few to pursue education beyond secondary. For men of my country it was all about hard labor and not so much of the mind."

His goal was to raise his GT score by 16 points to a 120. An education center employee told Berry he would need to put his head into it and take the FAST Class.

Berry went to work on the task.

"I was always that guy who sat in the back of the class, very quiet to myself, always observing, trying to take everything in as best as I could," said Berry. "Sometimes we had 200 problems in one day and I would go home and say to my wife, 'hey I won't have time for you today, it's all math until it's time for bed' and I worked every single one of them, I did not skip any at all."

Berry credited his success in the FAST class to instructor Elizabeth Coffer.

"The instructor she was very, very helpful and knowledgeable," said Berry. "We use this term Barney down in the military, which means she really breaks it down and I really appreciated that. I ended coming out of my class with a 120 GT score from a 94, so it's all because of how Liz taught the class."

Berry vividly remembered the day he took the ASVAB test.

"I actually came out of the test trembling. I went to the instructor and I said to her, 'I don't think I passed.' She said, 'it's always the ones that think the test was so hard that actually pass.' When I went back in to get my scores my palms were all sweaty and he (the test administrator) looked up at me and said 'remember what I told you when you came in here and you did that pre-aptitude test? You just needed to put your mind to it,' I said, 'yeah' and he turned that paper to me and I was so happy."

"I'm hoping with my new GT score, many opportunities will open up."

One of those opportunities will lead Berry to starting his master's degree this fall. He plans to pursue his MBA with an emphasis in human resources and he has set his goal to complete it in 16 months.