Sailors join the Navy for different reasons. Some join solely for the benefits and experience, some join for financial reasons and some join to use the Navy as a stepping-stone for their professional development. The Navy is constantly changing and opportunities usually won’t fall on anyone’s lap. If Sailors do their homework there are opportunities that the Navy provides that can be taken advantage of in the yards.
Aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), Sailors are taking advantage of the Navy’s financial assistance and getting a head start on their education while in the yards.
Tuition Assistance (TA) is the Navy’s educational financial assistance program. It provides active duty personnel funding for tuition costs for courses taken in an off-duty status at a college, university or vocational/technical institution, whose regional or national accreditation is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
“Our mission is to give everyone the resources and opportunity to pursue their educational goals,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class(AW/SW) Oscar Ruelas, a member of Boxer’s office for education services.
Some Sailors made getting an education a goal during their first enlistment.
“When I joined the Navy, I always had college in mind,” explained Seaman(SW) Yair Herrera, a member of Deck department’s 3rd division. “I wanted to make sure I took advantage of the opportunities as soon as I could.”
Herrera, a 21-year-old, is currently working toward an associate’s degree in general studies for this fall semester and plans to eventually pursue a bachelor’s degree in finance after the Navy.
Balancing school and work is not easy for most Sailors. It can be mentally exhausting in some cases.
“I had to balance the ships mission, which came first, so I attended college after working hours and on the weekends,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class(AW/SW) Raymond Escalona.
Escalona has been in the Navy for 20 years and earned an associate’s degree during his service.
“I hope to pursue a bachelor’s degree in health administration after I am out of the Navy,” said Escalona.
Ruelas said the Navy is always changing and having some sort of education under your belt is important.
“As a veteran, having work experience and education looks a lot more desirable than just one or the other,” said Escalona.
To some Sailors, going to college was a good way to stay educated and on top of your goals for when you retire.
Ruelas gave some advice to junior Sailors aboard the ship.
“An education is one of the few things that help a Sailor anywhere,” said Ruelas. “It does not matter if they are doing 30 years in the Navy or one enlistment. Start as soon as possible. I recommend taking one class to get in the groove and get a feel on how everything balances out. It’s free education.”
Navy TA pays up-front tuition charged by educational institutions for course enrollments. Navy TA pays 100 percent of tuition costs for courses applicable to the completion of a high school diploma or equivalency certificate.
Ruelas completed various classes and is currently working toward his second degree.
Escalona is currently retiring and Herrera looks to continue his studies during his first term.