Friday, March 8, 2013

"Enlisted Education Is Expendable," Says DoD -- Again.

No more tuition assistance.
The Army and Marine Corps have both decided to suspend their tuition assistance programs. Soldiers and Marines can finish the current semester, but the services are not allowing new enrollments. 
Each service is responsible for funding and administering its tuition assistance program, said Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen. 
“This week, DOD’s comptroller issued guidance indicating that the services should consider significant reductions in funding new tuition assistance applicants, effective immediately and for the duration of the current fiscal situation,” Christensen said in an email.
These are the options we're given to advance our educations in this country:
  1. Have financially stable parents, and by "financially stable" I mean "expendable income upwards of $50,000 for the average household, with no other goals like retirement or 'perhaps one of us will get cancer and want to pay for treatment'"
  2. Finance yourself an average $27,000 debt
  3. Have your act so together at 14 years of age that you maintain the kind of grades and extracurriculars that win scholarships
  4. Be physically blessed and determined enough to win an athletic scholarship, while also developing the mental acuity to succeed in a college environment
  5. Enlist.
In exchange for four to five years minimum, or around 6 percent of our life expectancy (youth years, too, good ones); we can slowly chip away at college courses while active duty, and hope that circumstances allow us to take advantage of the GI Bill sometime in the future. That's the deal. Service members do not enlist strictly for patriotic zeal, or we'd see a lot more income-level demographic diversity. Twenty hands go up for "education" as a reason for enlisting at the average Welcome Aboard brief for new Marines, and there is nothing wrong with that. They still became Marines.

Image courtesy Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System

This mindset I've seen firsthand in the enlisted military, that a desire to pursue an education is somehow dishonorable, is sick. It is a sickness. Why should we feel embarrassed that we want to spend our off-hours in a classroom instead of, what, reading books from the Commandant's Reading List? More physical training? Does anyone seriously think that's what Marines choose if they're not in class? Idle Marines play video games, or they loiter outside of the seven-day (mini-mart) smoking, snacking, and replenishing their barracks beer supply.

Tuition assistance is as much a benefit to the armed forces as it is to the individual service member: smarter leaders within the military, and better prospects for veterans. I'm sick of the caps, freezes, and now outright suspension of tuition assistance. Our system gives poor kids exactly one self-sufficient, debt-free route to an education, then backhands them the moment they try to take it.

Delete one khaki uniform shirt out of the current requirement of five or six. How much will that save out of annual clothing allowances? Streamline required leadership courses. Gather all of the unused supplies, including expensive pointlessly hoarded components, in rusty freestanding cabinets DoD-wide and use them instead of ordering more. Sell one outdated legacy F/A-18 at one training squadron and pay for a year of classes.

There are a dozen swear words I'd like to conclude with, but I"ll maintain my composure. Enlisted education should be a priority. That's all I have to say.

Edit: Sign the petition!

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