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If You’re Pursuing An Education, Learn From My Mistakes
Following World War II, one of the best examples of a successful government program was the G.I. Bill. Once passed, thousands of service members returning from war were able to get an education, earn their degrees, start a career and make a great deal more than they would have otherwise. The overall economy benefited from the influx of workers able to earn higher wages and the country, as a whole, benefited not just from the increased economic activity, but from the overall improvement that came with it. The gains for society were exponential.
Fast forward to today and we are in the midst of a new wave of veterans returning from the battlefield, albeit in smaller numbers. Just as they did 70 years ago, our leaders in government and academia have seen fit to provide education benefits to these veterans. There are schools that are taking part in the Yellow Ribbon Program as well, and pick up the remaining costs of education for the veterans. These are all worthy updates to what was such a successful concept at the outset.
Unfortunately, today’s economic and academic marketplace is vastly different and the outlook for these veterans remains decidedly more mixed than our predecessors from two generations ago. I speak as someone who has tried to take full advantage of the G.I.Bill and return to school to better myself and improve my economic prospects. The results have been trying, if I am to be honest.
After returning home from my second tour in Iraq in the summer of 2008, I started my enrollment in New York University’s Stern School of Business to earn my MBA. Many fellow Marines officers I knew at the time had encouraged me to pursue the degree as a way to change careers and enter the corporate world. Lacking an undergraduate degree in business, it was safe to assume this was the best, if not the only, way I could convince the top corporations that I was suitable management material in one of the most competitive cities in the world. When combined with my military leadership experience, it seemed like a natural addition to my resume and one that would bear immediate fruit upon graduation. At least that was the idea.
It was a challenge to transition directly from active duty to the classroom. One minute I was in charge of Marines --- responsible for their lives, planning their combat operations --- and the next I was doing homework and attending corporate social functions discussing the latest market trends. The change in mindset was definitely a challenge and one that every veteran should be prepared to face.
However, just as we’ve met the challenges of military service, most veterans can overcome any initial difficulties with this transition. The opportunity to meet new people with completely different backgrounds and interests is a great way for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life and broaden their occupational horizons. Likewise, the chance to study new subjects affords veterans the ability to expand their thought process, to break from the strict military life and more fully develop as a well-rounded member of civic society. These are all positive aspects of the education experience.
The disappointing part of the story, at least in my own experience, comes from two very real issues that veterans should be conscious of when planning their post-military career path. First is the idea that you are somehow supposed to be able to figure exactly what you want to study and exactly what career you should pursue right as you leave the military. But how can you know what subjects you will most enjoy and benefit from? How do you adapt those experiences to an educational program and subsequent occupation if you’re still trying to figure things out? What if your experiences in the military changed you? What if you pick the wrong path?
This last question is the one that haunts me. When given the chance to use the G.I. Bill to pick a path, to reorient my life toward a new career, I did not fully appreciate where my interests lay and what was most marketable about my military career. Instead, I pursued a degree in finance that I thought would help me make the most money. I learned, too late, that money comes from being a success, not the other way around. And being a success is predicated on doing something you’re passionate about and love to do.
The lesson here is when deciding to pursue a degree using the G.I. Bill do a thorough self-assessment. Take some time to focus on your true interests as well as the skills and capabilities you developed in the military that can combine with your education to tell a holistic story that employers will gravitate toward and value.
The second and more practical lesson is the debt issue. I attended NYU, a private university in the heart of New York City. I went there because it was one of the top schools for finance and provided an excellent opportunity to be recruited by the top firms on Wall Street. The tuition for such a prestigious school was over $40,000 a year. The G.I. Bill did not cover all of this. The result was graduating with a fancy MBA degree and a mountain of debt.
The lesson: Don’t go into debt to earn your degree. Take classes via a part-time program while you work if you have to. Or pick a program that will not break the bank and that the G.I. Bill will fully cover. Lastly, pick a program, a degree, a career path that you know fits with your personality, your interests and your skills.
I encourage my fellow veterans to take full advantage of these educational programs, but also to do your homework, develop a sound plan, and accomplish your mission just as you used to when in uniform. In short, learn from my mistakes.
Here are five smart degrees to consider when applying for college.
A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.
At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.
Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."
Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.
The Navy could deploy a second carrier to the Middle East if Trump orders an Iran surge, top admiral says
The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.
Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.
I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.
Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.
An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps
"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."
Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.
At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.
Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.
"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."
She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."
It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.
The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.
But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.
The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.