Service members graduate while deployed

Story and photos by Sgt. Chad Menegay
13th Sustainment Command, (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

Victory Base Complex, Iraq — About 70 service members were recognized for attaining higher education degrees at a college graduation ceremony May 17 at the Al Faw Palace at Camp Liberty, Iraq.

The degrees ranged from associates to doctorates. Around 100 friends and co-workers attended the military ceremony to celebrate civilian achievements.

The crowd, at times, let loose with chants and cheers as individuals crossed the stage. Some graduates raised their arms and pumped their fists in victory. Many hugs, smiles and handshakes were exchanged during the ballroom reception that followed.

Personnel at the Army Continuing Education Systems’ education centers at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, and Victory Base Camp, Iraq, did the majority of the logistical work for the event, to include lining up VIPs and keynote speakers Brig. Gen. Donald J. Currier, commander of the 49th Military Police Brigade, and Carolyn L. Baker, chief of continuing education programs, Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Patricia Davis-Mullins, an education services officer for the Army ACES program said she selected Currier because he is a Soldier who has come up through the ranks, from private to general.

“He is the ultimate Soldier for education,” Davis-Mullins said, “because he’s gotten his doctorate degree. He’s worked the system.”

1st Lt. John Saindon Jr., environmental officer with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and a Wichita, Kan., native, was awarded a Doctorate of health science from Nova Southeastern University.

Saindon said that while serving as the environmental officer on this deployment, he actually took his final classes.

“Part of the degree encompassed environmental and occupational science classes,” Saindon said. “So along with that, the courses assisted with developing strategies and plans for the environmental considerations while serving in Iraq.”

Education centers here in Iraq help facilitate classes and tests for the continued higher education of deployed service members.

“We are here to provide morale, support, professional development and well-being for service members,” Davis-Mullins said. “We’re all about educating our Soldiers. We are an organization that makes an impact on peoples’ lives.”

Saindon said the most helpful resource was having a stable Internet connection that the education centers provided.

“I needed to correspond with my instructor and other students, to download my assignments,” Saindon said.

“I try to encourage my Soldiers to use some free time while they’re out here, to take advantage of some of the benefits that the Army does offer,” said Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Nebroski, a postal noncommissioned officer and platoon sergeant with the 387th Human Resources Company, 15th Special Troops Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and a Strong, Pa., native.

Nebroski earned his associates of arts in general studies from the University of Maryland after 10 years and having attended multiple universities.

“It’s a matter of taking time out to dedicate to civilian studies,” Nebroski said.

A lot of Soldiers say, “you know, I just don’t have time,” he said. “I say, try to dedicate the time and put forth the effort. It’ll pay off in the end.”

Davis-Mullins said study time directs Soldiers’ minds away from the potential negative thoughts of deployment.

“I always tell commanders that we’re their secret weapon to keep soldiers occupied. People that are going to school are not depressed. They don’t have time to be,” she said.

 

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A graduate (right) receives a University of Maryland University College Europe bachelor of science in social science education center certificate from Brig. Gen. Donald J. Currier (center), commander of the 49th Military Police Brigade, and Carolyn L. Baker (left),chief of continuing education programs, Office of the Secretary of Defense. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Chad Menegay)

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A graduate (right) receives an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University master of science in safety science education center certificate from Brig. Gen. Donald J. Currier (center), commander of the 49th Military Police Brigade, and Carolyn L. Baker (left), chief of continuing education programs, Office of the Secretary of Defense. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Chad Menegay)

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University of Maryland University College Europe Vice President Allan J. Berg (right) congratulates a graduate May 17 at the Al Faw Palace, Camp Liberty, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Chad Menegay)