Welcome to 2014! As we say goodbye to 2013, let this first month of the year be a time of reflection and preparation for the transition that inevitably impacts every servicemember – life after the military.
Taking the time now to make plans, establish goals, and identify your dreams for the future can make a significant difference not only for the rest of the year, but for the rest of your life.
As you map out your goals for 2014, ensure that education is part of your plan. Case-in-point, Angel Canales is currently a producer for ABC News, a division of the Walt Disney Company. Disney launched a new program titled, "Heroes Work Here" in March 2012. Disney initially sought to hire 1,000 veterans by 2015, but has already welcomed more than 2,500 servicemembers to date and their numbers continue to climb. Angel was hired to his dream job due to his military experience and education – an education that he would not have had he not made an assessment of what he wanted in the future and pursued his goals.
Angel joined the service in 1999 from San Juan, Puerto Rico, because he wanted direction in his life and the opportunity to see the world. He decided to join the Navy because he liked the ocean, and the Navy was the perfect place to be surrounded by it. While serving, Angel deployed to Spain, Croatia, Greece, and Turkey as an Aviation Boatswains Mate. The military had a significant impact on Angel. He credits his self-discipline to military training, which has been instrumental in his professional development, and includes being on-time and never quitting.
Throughout his years of service, Angel maintained contact with his friends back home. When he determined that his career path as an Aviation Boatswains Mate was not his ultimate goal in life, he sought the means to reach his ideal position. Angel was significantly influenced by his friends that were attending great schools and obtaining exciting careers. Like his friends, he knew he had to go to school to be successful in life; he knew education would play a significant role in his future.
Angel went to Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. He received credit for his military training from his institutions which reduced the number of courses he had to take to obtain his degree. Service members are encouraged to follow suit by requesting a copy of their Joint Services Transcript (JST). The JST captures military training, education, and occupational experiences and identifies the ACE recommended college credits for those experiences. Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard servicemembers can obtain their JST from jst.doded.mil. Air Force personnel can obtain their transcripts from the Community College of the Air Force at www.au.af.mil/au/ccaf/transcripts.
Keep in mind that ACE credits are recommendations; the prospective education institution will make the final determination regarding how many credits they will award and where they might apply in your chosen degree program. The more credits the institution applies to your degree requirements, the fewer classes you will have to take and the burden of tuition assistance is reduced for the military. In 2012, there was a cost avoidance of more than $150 million dollars in tuition assistance due to the more than 725,000 military training credits that were applied to servicemembers' degree plans.
Angel did not have the GI Bill and obtained loans to pay for his degree. He warns, "Education is very expensive these days, so make sure you have a plan." As reported in "The Next Front? Student Loan Servicing and the Cost to Our Men and Women in Uniform," according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average graduating Service Member debt in 2008 was $25,566! There is no reason for servicemember educational debt! Servicemembers are encouraged to make a plan with their education service counselors to leverage DANTES products and services www.dantes.doded.mil to reduce or even eliminate the cost of pursuing a degree or credential.
If Angel could speak to servicemembers, he would tell them: "Go to college, but only do it if they are certain about the career path and have a plan once they get that degree. Education has been key and instrumental in my career. Knowing what kind of work I wanted to be doing helped me guide my own program in school. Make sure you're passionate about the career – immerse yourself in the field to make sure you pick the program that's best for you." Angel is quick to credit education for his position.
In 2014, will you do the same?
I look forward to hearing from you at RCA@navy.mil.