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Six senior enlisted blaze new trail

By Cpl. Brian Buckwalter | | April 16, 2004

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Six senior enlisted Marines recently cleared a path for other staff noncommissioned officers by graduating the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio with Master of Science degrees in Information Resource Management with a concentration in information assurance (IA).  This is the first time a graduating class consisted of enlisted and officers.

Master Sgts. James Orvlosk, Irene Johnson, and Juan Lopez, and Gunnery Sgts. Pamela Cole, Brian Hamilton, and Kelvin Scott along with eight Air Force senior enlisted completed their Master degrees in just over 18 months.

"I feel it was a great academic achievement," said Master Sgt. Lopez.  "As a group we were very proud to be part of something that will change the future of the Marine Corps.

He explained one change is since officers are only required to spend three years within the field of their degree, having enlisted Marines with the same education will allow more "permanence and continuity to the IA field."

Furthermore, senior enlisted will be "expected to work with senior military members to help develop policies for the Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN), the network which connects the Marine Corps to the Internet," said Lopez.

Having enlisted personnel attend AFIT benefited the entire class, said Lopez. "What we brought to the table was extensive operational experience, which many of the officers didn't have.  It allows you to combine theory with applied science."

Having this experience helped the enlisted Marines.

"We didn't feel a lot of pressure.  We were pretty confident.  This became apparent after the first term because we brought an unique aspect to the classroom," said Lopez.

Not only did the enlisted Marines graduate, they excelled.

During the class they participated in the National Security Agency's (NSA) annual Cyber Defense Exercise with 14 other students.  Their roles helped the AFIT class win the graduate portion of the exercise by having the best defense for network communications services.

In addition to the successful exercise, Lopez received a personal award for research he did during the class. 

Each student is required to complete research that provides new information to the field.  Lopez's research "helped explain how a new communications technology can negatively impact communications in mobile and deployed environments," according to a press release.  He received the Armed Forces Communications-Electronics Association's Engineering Research Excellence Award for his findings.

"We were the guinea pigs for having enlisted sent to AFIT, but we did what we had to do to complete the mission and we did," said Lopez.

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