USS MOMSEN, At Sea - Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Momsen (DDG 92) are pursuing their education while underway through the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE).
The NCPACE program offers Sailors academic skills, developmental and college-level courses, both undergraduate and graduate, from regionally accredited institutions.
"Before I joined the Navy, I dropped out of high school and got my GED [General Education Diploma]," said Fire Controlman 2nd Class James Anthony Covert, an NCPACE-enrolled student majoring in electrical engineering. "I definitely never thought I'd go to college, and here I am."
Covert, who has been taking distance learning courses while the ship has been deployed, said that ultimately, his goal is to earn a master's degree.
Distance learning classes are self-paced and are administered on CDs, which do not require internet access, and books, which include lessons and quizzes.
Currently, nine Momsen Sailors are enrolled in distance learning classes.
"For deployment, NCPACE is the way to go because it is not subject to internet restrictions," said Ensign Andrew McCarthy, Momsen's education services officer. "You have all your materials already with you."
Tuition for NCPACE courses is free for students who decide to take classes on board. Participants are only required to pay for textbooks and other course-related materials.
Sailors, who balance studying as well as performing their duties underway, have three months to complete each course. When using tuition assistance, the Navy allows them to seek as many as 16 credits per year.
"The Navy pays for the course," said Covert. "I just pay for the books."
Obtaining a college degree enables enlisted Sailors to earn promotion points and will also aid those who intend to apply for officer or limited duty officer programs.
"This is the perfect time to do it, while we're at sea," said Covert. "I don't know why anyone wouldn't want to take advantage in the first place."
McCarthy said NCPACE also helps Sailors to advance in pay grade and can prepare those Sailors who intend to separate from the Navy or join the Navy Reserve.
"You will have those credits in your pocket, and it opens up your options in whatever career path you choose," McCarthy said. "There are so many benefits. I just wish more people would take advantage of them."
Momsen and USS Sterett (DDG 104) are deployed with Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9 as part of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ALCSG). ALCSG, which also includes the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, and guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71), is in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
NCPACE supports the personal and professional growth of Sailors helping them earn degrees which help make them invaluable assets to the Navy. It's an important part of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative which consolidates a set of objectives and policies, new and existing, to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of the Department of the Navy.