By Cpl. Timothy Childers | 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit | December 28, 2012
USS RUSHMORE (Dec. 28, 2012) The time on deck aboard the USS Rushmore is 1800 hours as Marines arrive with textbooks in hand. Inside a small room, servicemembers squeeze together, sitting behind a screen-projector. Class is in session.
Marines and sailors aboard the USS Rushmore took advantage of the Marine Corps’ Tuition Assistance Program and enrolled in courses offered by Central Texas College and Park University during the 15th Marine Expeditionary and Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group’s deployment.
One of the many benefits the Marine Corps offers to its active duty members is free education through the Tuition Assistance program. Working around unpredictable schedules, deployed servicemembers can use this program to help get closer to earning a degree.
Marine and Navy officers take the role of instructors and learning coordinators while at sea to provide servicemembers with college courses that can be used toward a degree. The students receive the same course curriculums as the sponsoring institutions have in the states.
“As a learning coordinator, I’m here to provide Marines with course materials, guide them through the curriculum and collect assignments and tests, which are sent back to instructors at CTC,” said 1st Lt. Carter A. Dunham, fire-direction controller, 1st Platoon, Battery B, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 15th MEU. “I lead the two U.S. History courses with usually ten-to-twenty students per class.”
Other courses offered aboard the Rushmore include Introduction to Criminal Justice, Crime in America, Introduction to Psychology, English Composition, Introduction to Religion, New Testament, Old Testament and Continued Mathematics. Books are the only cost to the student.
“I signed up for the U.S. History course because it was free, and I wanted to improve myself,” said Lance Cpl. Nathan H. Lubega, field artillery cannoneer, 2nd Platoon, Battery B, BLT 3/5, 15th MEU. “I like the course because it’s a small class size and the schedule is flexible with our deployment. You can learn at your own pace and the credits you earn afterwards can be transferred to most accredited colleges across the nation.”
The courses are designed to be flexible to meet the needs of a deployed war-fighter who may not always have time to study or complete assignments.
“It can be difficult to find class time while rotating through training. It’s difficult to capture a solid schedule,” said Lt. Stephen J. Zachary, chaplain and CTC instructor, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “If it wasn’t for CTC and their flexibility, Marines and sailors wouldn’t be able to gain the education benefits available to them.”
The 15th MEU is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.