USS BOXER (LHD 4) -- With over four months of combat operations in Iraq behind them, some Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) are taking the opportunity to take educate themselves aboard the USS Boxer (LHD 4) on the return leg of the Western Pacific deployment which began in Sept 2006.
The instruction comes in the form of off-duty education, offered aboard ship with accreditation from stateside colleges affiliated with the military, and instructed by qualified military or civilian instructors.
The classes offered aboard ship are mainly geared toward associate degrees, according to Master Sgt Patrick L. Gallegos, Headquarters Commandant, 15th MEU (SOC). The classes are open to all Marines wishing to further their education, not all of whom are new to higher education, according to Gallegos.
“You have Marines who it’s their first time taking college classes, Marines who are almost done with their degrees, Marines who want to enhance themselves and just get back into school, and some who already completed their degrees who just want to get back into the mix,” Gallegos said.
With a bachelor’s degree in business management and another in human resources, Gallegos is familiar with some of the advantages for Marines who participate in off-duty education. According to Gallegos, not only does off-duty education help with promotion within the military, it also gives Marines a leg up outside the military as well, increasing pay and career advancement in the civilian workforce.
For Marines wishing to supplement their career with college, time is at a premium, however, the relative flexibility of shipboard life offers Marines the chance to go to class without interfering with normal operations, according to Cpl Jonathan S. McCoy, supply Administration Clerk, 15th MEU (SOC).
“On ship, the off-duty education is set up to accommodate the students” McCoy said. “It’s great because it gives students the opportunity to complete our education with the limited time we have.”
McCoy, a Sugar Land, Texas native, sees off-duty education as a springboard for Marines who want to plan for the future whether in or out of the Marine Corps.
“Off-duty education is set up for people who aren’t ready to go to college and it’s a stepping stone for those who plan to do only one enlistment,” McCoy said.
Gallegos, on his sixth deployment in the Marine Corps, is not new to teaching. Previous experience as an instructor helped Gallegos develop a keen understanding of how best to pass on knowledge to his students.
“I developed my teaching style when I was an instructor at the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Academy. Creating a relaxing environment enables many of the students to grasp the concepts I am trying to teach,” Gallegos said. “My job as a teacher is to help the students grasp that they have the skills to be successful in college.”
For Gallegos’ students, success in college is a path toward success in life. Gallegos is all business when it comes to helping his students succeed.