Soldiers and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall employees used the Oct. 17 JBM-HH military career expo and education fair as more than an opportunity to pick up promotional pencils and refrigerator magnets. In a time noted as "critical" for transitioning servicemembers, many in uniform consolidated their resources toward higher learning at the mid-week exposition.

Servicemembers visited JBM-HH's Community Center as 21 colleges and universities -- both online and traditional -- waited to promote their respective degree programs and distance learning philosophies. To usher in the four-hour event, Joint Base Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Jennifer L. Blair welcomed college representatives and base personnel from the Fort Myer Education Center and the Lifelong Learning program from the Henderson Hall portion of JBM-HH. During her remarks, Blair advised active duty personnel and those transitioning to civilian life to be pro-active in attaining a college degree. "This year's theme is 'education behind the force,' and I know some people don't realize how important this is until after they get out and then you are behind the power curve," Blair said of continuing education, as military to civilian transitions prepare to increase through 2013.

The deputy commander urged servicemembers to take advantage of educational programs offered on the joint base and within the Military District of Washington like JBM-HH ACAP and base education centers and their counseling services while encouraging Soldiers and Marines to investigate the influx of online learning.

An Old Guard Soldier who was on task to heed Blair's advice was Spc. Derrick Anderson. The Continental Color Guard member is well on his way to an online degree, and his education fair quest was an actual fact-finding mission.

"I'm more than half way through a degree, and I definitely want to finish it before I get out," said Anderson. "I have about 18 months left [in the Army]; I don't know which way I want to go, but primarily, my focus is to finish up my education before I get out."

"I'm here to see what opportunities are out there," he continued. I'm interested in CID [Criminal Investigation Command], and I definitely want to stop by the George Mason [University] table. I'm here exploring what there is to offer."

Other institutions of higher learning in attendance included the well-known and the fledgling group of online, distance teachers. Representatives from the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill, Central Michigan University, the University of Maryland/College Park and Northern Virginia Community College interacted with service men and women. At the same time, online schools like the University of Phoenix and Trident University pitched their messages to prospective students and the University of Oklahoma, Boston University and Park University were quick to boast of on-base or local campuses. Directorate of Public Works employee and heating and air conditioning expert Bill Mahoney visited the expo/fair during the opening hour and stopped by the George Mason and NOVA community college tables for some educational information which would aid his future education.

"I got enrolled in a HVAC apprenticeship program, so [JBM-HH] has put me through four years of HVAC schooling. I recently graduated from the apprenticeship program," Mahoney explained. "Now that I finished those four years of schooling, I'm trying to transition my apprenticeship classes into some college credits because NOVA [community college] has a program with an associate's degree in heating and air conditioning, so I wanted to get some information on that."

Also supporting the joint base and the Military District of Washington at the career expo and education fair were JBM-HH ACAP, the Pentagon Army Education Center and the National Guard.
Education Service Specialist Reginald Battle emphasized the point that any Soldier -- whether expecting a downsizing transition or not --should not ignore future career expos, education fairs or opportunities to enhance their educational resumes.

"The one thing I always tell Soldiers when I am counseling them, either in a transition or just a general counseling, about the benefit is that this is one of the more tangible benefits they will be able to access that will have a result when you leave active service and enter civilian life," said Battle.