Military Aids Work Force; Education Programs Aid Post-Service Employment

Article excerpt

Byline: Chrissie Thompson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Larry Slagel watches 190,000 to 215,000 servicemen and women leave the military each year, many seeking civilian careers. He said on-base education programs help make military personnel more marketable to employers.

Education "helps them contribute to America's work force by rounding out their leadership skills with book smarts," said Mr. Slagel, a former Marine who is senior vice president of RecruitMilitary, an organization that helps connect military personnel and spouses with civilian employers.

The Department of Defense says 420,000 military personnel annually take postsecondary classes in the department's voluntary education programs, and 20 percent of active-duty forces used tuition assistance in fiscal year 2004.

The department offers up to $4,500 for tuition each fiscal year for personnel taking college courses at one of 350 education centers worldwide. In addition, veterans who are Montgomery GI Bill participants can receive approximately up to $30,000 for tuition from the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to Defense Department information.

James L. Peebles, a police lieutenant working at the U.S. Supreme Court and a former soldier, received his bachelor's degree in management on Sept. 9 from Park University. Based in Parkville, Mo., the university has 38 campus centers on military bases, including Henderson Hall Marine Corps base and Fort Myer Military Community in Virginia, said Thomas W. Peterman, vice president for distance learning.

Taking classes at military bases enabled Lt. Peebles to complete his degree, making him the first in his immediate family to receive a college degree.

"I wanted to try to open up doors of opportunity for my family," he said. "I figured that going back to school and obtaining my degree 27 years later would inspire members of my family."

Lt. Peebles, 45, began his college career in 1979, when he spent one semester at Halifax Community College, near his hometown of Margarettsville, N.C. His family could not afford to finance his college education, so he relied on college grants, but when those grants were reduced, he was not able to continue his education.

Enter the U.S. Army.

Lt. Peebles enlisted in 1980 and served until 1995, retiring as sergeant first class in the Military Police Corps. While in the service, he took college classes on base at Quantico and Henderson Hall Marine Corps bases, Fort Myer Military Community and Thomas Jefferson Middle School, as well as online, using some tuition assistance from the Veterans Education Assistance Program.

He received an associate degree in 1992 from Central Texas College, which enabled him to enter the senior ranks of noncommissioned officers. He spent 12 years working on the associate degree because of having to drop classes when he was deployed to South Korea, Japan and the Netherlands. …