Seeking ways to provide more educational opportunities for senior enlisted Marines, Sgt. Maj. of the U.S. Marine Corps Troy E. Black explored options and possibilities with faculty and students at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) during a visit to the campus, March 9.
In the Great Power Competition environment, all branches of the Department of Defense are looking for ways to get an edge over our adversaries, and the Marine Corps believes a more educated enlisted force could do just that.
“Throughout history, the United States military has always rose to the challenges that we have faced,” said Black. “And in today’s world, we have to find a way to make everyone from the freshest private to the oldest general ready for whatever comes next.”
Currently, there are 245 Marines enrolled in 22 different curricula at NPS … Nine of these students are enlisted.
“We need to invest more in our enlisted community,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Randy Pugh, the Senior Marine Representative at NPS. “We need to take advantage of the courses that NPS offers to enlisted members. The infrastructure is there already, we just need to capitalize on it.”
Black describes a Marine as constantly being in a perpetual state of deployment. They either are preparing to deploy, are currently deployed, or are just back from a deployment. He says the Marine Corps needs opportunities that let enlisted Marines take courses at different times and eventually earn a degree rather than being sent to a university somewhere for multiple years. “Enlisted education is a career-long process,” he said.
NPS follows a more traditional approach to graduate education. Students attend the university for a defined period of time and are sent back to the fleet and force to apply their knowledge. With time restrictions, that is not always possible. NPS President retired Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau is prepared to tackle that challenge.
“We are not restricted,” said Rondeau. “We have the capacity and would be excited to help the Corps in any way we can. We are in this together, shoulder to shoulder, and we will do whatever we can to maximize the warfighting capability of the Marine Corps.”
Master Sgt. Travis Hollingshead, a student pursuing a degree in Applied Cyberspace Operations, believes that NPS is a great option for enlisted Marines.
“It has provided me with an opportunity to expand my already existing experience and expertise in the field by giving me new and emerging challenges to tackle with research,” said Hollingshead.
“We need all the Marines to be critical and creative thinkers and problem solvers going forward,” said Pugh. “I think that it begins with education, and education never stops. So, once you've got what you can at the bachelor's level, then you need to go and do graduate education. And when you mix that in with hands-on learning through research, that's really where it starts to gel. Then you get people that can solve just about any problem that gets thrown in front of them, whether they've seen it before or not.”