Sailors aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) commenced classes in pursuit of their college education while underway on deployment 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.
"We had the first class yesterday, and the students seem enthusiastic about it and very appreciative to the Navy for giving them this opportunity," said Michael Plemmons, a history professor for NCPACE.
Plemmons is aboard the Arleigh Burke teaching a basic freshman U.S. history class about early American colonies, a course requirement for the majority of degree programs.
The history class currently has a total of 42 student Sailors enrolled and through this program, the ship hopes to host a total of four college courses throughout the duration of the deployment.
The NCPACE program provides educational opportunities comparable to those available to shore duty personnel, and although students must pay for books, tuition is covered 100 percent by the Navy for students who decide to take classes on board.
"It's a tremendous opportunity for the Sailors, and the best deal of all is that it's free," said Plemmons. "The Navy picks up the cost of the class. You don't find too many people coming up to you and say, 'I have something free for you.'"
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.
For many of the Arleigh Burke Sailors this will be their first time taking college courses, moreover aboard a ship during deployment.
"I feel like it's a great opportunity, being that I'm in the Navy and on deployment, because it's really hard for me to do online classes or physically go to a school campus," said Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Charmanda Ward, a student in the NCPACE history course taught aboard Arleigh Burke.
According to Plemmons, one of the main reasons the NCPACE program was instituted was due to the difficulty for Sailors, at any pay grade, to attend a standard campus college course because of deployment scheduling cutting into a semester and leaving the Sailor unable to complete a course.
"This is my starting step towards making my way to my degree and this program has allowed me to do that," said Ward. "My ultimate goal is to achieve a degree in biology or as an information technician."
Both student and teacher agree that when given the opportunity to enroll in classes while underway, you should jump on the offer right away.
"Take advantage of the opportunity when it comes around," said Plemmons. "I told my class last night, this same course that I'm teaching now, if they were to pay for it and the ship was in port, would cost them about $750, not to mention buying the textbook."
Saving money and knocking out college classes while underway. A win-win for the Sailors aboard Arleigh Burke.
Arleigh Burke is currently underway on a scheduled deployment in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
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.
For more information about the Navy College Program, visit https://www.navycollege.navy.mil