2007-08-15 - By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Adam R. Cole, Task Force 76 Public Affairs SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7's senior enlisted leader became the latest of several ESG 7 Sailors to earn a college degree while in the military.
Command Master Chief (SW) Donald L. Acker Sr. received a college diploma from Liberty University in late May.
As Acker now looks toward a master’s program, he will join a handful of ESG 7 enlisted Sailors who have also reached that educational summit.
With Acker’s Bachelor of Science degree in business, education and information technologies—an honor that took him 11 years of perseverance, he hopes it will show his family and fellow Sailors the importance of finishing what you start—and simply to start.
“This is a tremendous sense of accomplishment,” said Acker. “I knew I had to be an example to my sons and fellow Sailors.”
Other ESG 7 enlisted Sailors that have reached educational benchmarks include Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (SW/FMF) Joseph C. Fiscus, who has a master’s degree and Chief Cryptologic Technician (Technical) (SW) Craig Abbott, who earned a master’s degree as well as a degree in business administration.
Acker is quick to point out the benefits of earning a degree, no matter if Sailors remain or leave the Navy. If Sailors remain, they have an edge on their peers. If they choose leave, they are much more marketable to civilian employers.
“I don’t think we can underestimate the value of education,” said Acker. “Whether it is a degree or a technical certification, our Sailors need to be continually learning—and reach milestones in that learning.”
Throughout ESG 7, education has been a key component to Sailor’s lives, as exemplified by the multitude of programs aboard ESG 7 ships. The entire chief’s mess from USS Guardian (MCM 5) received associate’s degrees and has more than 80 percent of its Sailors involved in the Navy College Program Afloat College Education.
Other ships have seen similar results, with USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) actually calling their educational platform Harpers Ferry University and making an active effort to show Sailors the many options available.
Aboard Tortuga, the ship recently held a special ‘graduation’ for students of a Japanese language class.
A number of forward-deployed Sailors have taken advantage of the programs available. For Abbott, who earned both his degrees while serving in the Navy, says that it’s all possible with time management.
“You have to have initiative to prioritize and find time to study,” said Abbott. “Education is a commitment. If you really want it, you will make it work and stay focused to achieve your educational goals, even in the midst of Navy and family life.”
Commander, ESG 7 Rear Adm. Carol M. Pottenger is proud of the way ESG 7 Sailors work toward higher education and is confident the push will continue.
“It is amazing to see initiatives of not only the ships but Sailors on those ships to seek and complete educational goals,” said Pottenger. “Master Chief Acker and other members of the staff, as well as chiefs throughout the deckplates, have set an excellent example to follow. We, as a Navy, need to continue to strive for educational benchmarks, such that we remain always fit to fight mentally.”
Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.