Navy Pilot Earns His Degree in Combat Zone; Serving, Studying Is ' Multitasking in the Extreme,' Educator Says; EDUCATION

By Watson, Julie | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

Navy Pilot Earns His Degree in Combat Zone; Serving, Studying Is ' Multitasking in the Extreme,' Educator Says; EDUCATION


Watson, Julie, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


SAN DIEGO * Finals week was dangerous for Thomas Saenz.

The Navy lieutenant needed armed guards and an armored car to get to an exam site, in Kabul, Afghanistan. A deadly bomb attack also caused him to miss classes transmitted live via the Internet but he persevered and earned a master's degree in engineering from the University of Southern California while commanding a top security team.

His class graduated on Friday and he joined a growing number of service members earning college degrees while deployed in a war zone. "Not only was he out there living on the edge, but he had to get his homework done," USC professor Frank Alvidrez said.

The Obama administration is pushing universities to find creative ways to help service members complete their degrees as it tracks the success of its post 9/11 GI Bill, which is designed to be the most comprehensive education benefit for veterans since World War II.

Enrollments for the new GI Bill number more than 480,000, according to the Veterans Administration, which is starting to track the number of graduates.

It's not known just how many others like Saenz earn their degrees while in combat. A commencement ceremony for 100 war-zone graduates from various universities is planned in late May in Kandahar.

"They really are multitasking in the extreme," said Bob Ludwig, spokesman for the University of Maryland University College, adding that the coursework can provide relief from the turmoil of war. …

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