As an educator, I am always on the lookout for better ways to answer the question “when are we going to use this?” Recently, I had the opportunity to tour the Navy base at Coronado Island, near San Diego and I found more answers to that question than I had expected.
Although my father was in the Air Force (before I was born), I have never thought of the military as a first option for post high school. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly support our armed forces and have great respect for those young men and women who dedicate any portion of heir lives to protect and defend our nation and our freedom. Still, when a student discusses their higher education plans with me, I have never offered military service as a first option.
When the application was sent out from the local Navy I thought it might be interesting, so I applied. The Navy footed the bill and picked me up at my home on the Monday of Spring Break and drove me to the Sacramento airport. I flew into San Diego and was met by the host of the program, Chuck Roeder, and Chief Luis Chavira, who was our escort, driver, tour guide and all-around general good guy for the week. After getting settled in the Naval guest housing on base, we had a nice dinner in old San Diego and got to know each other.
The trip included tours of an air craft carrier, a submarine,
a destroyer, the SEALS training facility, the helicopter hanger and a water side cruise around the harbor. What I was most impressed with was the technology involved in all the positions within the Navy. Since math is my subject of instruction, it is exciting to see so many real applications in the real world where I can tell my students; “hey, not only can you use this, but you can use it to make a living and to serve our country and get your education paid for by the military!”
I learned that every person in the Navy is first trained t be a fire fighter. I found this particularly interesting. My son (he’s almost 10) has been saying he wants to be a fire fighter since he was 4. He then wants to learn “to build stuff.” I interpret that to mean that he wants to be an engineer and the Naval engineering education is among the best in the world. There are 5000 personnel on an aircraft carrier. Every single one of them learns how to pilot that floating city. Under-water welders (frogmen) have to undergo intense training to be able to do that highly specialized job. The list goes on and on.
Whether a student joins the Navy and makes it a career, or just stays in long enough to get their education and then move on, the benefit of serving in the military is much greater than I had thought.
The military offers experience, in sometimes high pressure situations, in ways that even the highest of education facilities cannot create. Imagine, two people graduate high school at the same time. One goes to college and gets a degree, while the other joins the military. 4 years later, one has an education and the other has the same education and 4 years serving their country and working the job they hope to get. If our student in the service stays in for 20 years, at the same time our college-only student has a degree and 16 years experience working their way up the company ladder, the military student is now retired, has 20 years experience, including experience leading. Should they choose, they now get hired as their old classmate’s boss and when they both reach retirement age, our military student is collecting two retirement checks and living large at a relatively young age. I’m not saying that a person could get rich in the military, but I was extremely impressed with the fact that they are now taught how to manage their money and plan for retirement. It is definitely hard work, but that hard work pays off many times over.
Truth be told, most employers are looking for experience to go with education when they hire people. The military can give them that and, while it may not be for everyone, a student can learn a career, learn to manage themselves, their money and other people. They can learn the value of service and hard work. this is certainly a viable option for any student willing to work hard to make a good career and a good life for themselves and their family.
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