BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Staff Sgt. David Dolin, a member of U.S. Army Garrison Brussels, recently attained a major life and career goal by graduating from the University of Maryland University College with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.

"One of the goals I set for myself when I joined the Army is to get a degree, and, by golly, I did it!," he said with a chuckle.

"This has been a great accomplishment on David's part," noted Brussels Education Counselor, Dr. Joe Heinlein. "It's the sort of thing that makes my day!"

Heinlein, a retired 30-year Army colonel with a doctorate in international relations who pursued a second career as an educator, was so pleased with Dolin's achievement that he invited Dolin and a number of Brussels Soldiers and other guests to a formal lunch in one of Brussels' exclusive private clubs to celebrate.

"The ability to obtain a higher education is an indisputable benefit of Army service," explains Heinlein. "And the Army employs people like me to facilitate Soldiers achieving their educational goals. But, don't kid yourself; it's hard work for the Soldier. No magic formula has been invented to make it easy. We do one, perhaps, two percent of the work; the Soldier does the heavy lifting. That's why I wanted David to be specially recognized, in front of his peers and superiors."

Dolin is modest about his achievement, but concedes that Heinlein has a point. "I've had to find the time between my "day job" of being an MP and Soldier, between deployments, between raising a family. But it's worth it. And that's the message I try and pass on to other Soldiers.

Prior to the start of the lunch, Heinlein made a formal presentation, inducting Dolin into the "Brussels Education Forum."

The forum is something Heinlein came up with years ago. Its concept is to assemble a small group of military and civilian members of the Brussels Community who have successfully undertaken to advance their education through opportunities available locally.

Members of the forum, or "EDDIES," share their experience, advise and mentor Brussels Soldiers and members of the other services interested in furthering their education. The overall goal is to provide an opportunity for members of the Brussels community to interact with, question and learn from the experience of others who have taken advantage of available educational opportunities.

"David Dolin is a natural as a forum member," explained Heinlein. "He is savvy, has achieved a great deal and is willing to help others!"

Forum members help candidates identify what type of oportunities are available and at what cost. They work to identify a student's individual goals and objectives, whether it's acquiring a skill or earning a certification or a degree. Finally, and according to Heinlein most important, they serve as individual mentors. The forum is intended to be a renewable cohort of volunteer "EDDIES," recruited to give advice on their educational experience to peers.

"The peer part is extremely important," explains Heinlein. "I know a little about education, I can impart a bit to Soldiers who want to improve themselves, I'm accessible to them, but, at the end of the day, the Soldiers excel at helping each other out and provide peer motivation. I can't do that anywhere near as well as they can."

Brussels Staff Sgt. Jonathan James is inspired by Dolin's example.

"When I arrived in Brussels, Staff Sgt. Dolin explained the uniqueness of this installation and assured me that education was one area I could advance in here, especially when compared to being in a line unit," James said. "He put me in touch with Dr Heinlein, who dedicated a lot of time to me, ultimately opening a door leading to my academic success. Dolin, like clockwork would approach me before each semester to discuss how I was doing and what classes I was planning on taking each semester. I really appreciate the support!"

Dolin is adamant about the value of education.

"It made me a better Soldier, a better NCO, and a better person," he said. "My sincere advice to Soldiers is that they take advantage of each and every opportunity to improve themselves!"