OAK HARBOR, Wash. — The blustery rain pelts the sergeant major as he is led into the building where the team that makes up Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 1 begins their work day. A group of Navy chief petty officers leads the United States Naval Community College’s command senior enlisted leader up the stairs and through the hallway of one of the oldest buildings on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
“Petty Officer Graham, you have a visitor,” says one of the chief petty officers attached to the command. Naval Aircrewman (Operator) 2nd Class Brooke Graham, of Oakley, California, looks at the senior enlisted leader with furrowed brows. Sgt. Maj. Michael Hensley introduces himself and congratulates her on her recent completion of the Naval Studies Certificate.
“I’m used to being around Navy people all the time,” said Graham about her experience with USNCC. She said her interactions with active duty Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen in the five courses that comprise the Naval Studies Certificate “makes me take a step back and see how we fit in. It gave me more awareness of our place in the world and how our mission impacts it.”
Graham was one of the first 34 students to complete the Naval Studies Certificate, a naval-relevant education program offered as a part of every associate degree program with USNCC. These five courses were taught entirely online and asynchronously, giving service members access and opportunity to balance their work life with the pursuit of naval-relevant education.
“We can’t spend our way to victory,” said USNCC’s Sgt. Maj. Michael Hensley. “We need to educate our Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen if we want to invest in our success.”
“The Naval Studies Certificate is designed with fleet input to be both a part of the student’s associate degree and build skills the operating force needs,” said Russ Evans, associate dean of Naval Studies at USNCC. “Whether it is expeditionary advanced operating bases or distributed lethality, we will ask more junior individuals to make bigger decisions with less support more quickly. The Naval Studies Certificate is designed to prepare students for those challenges.”
The Naval Studies Certificate’s 15-semester-credit program is a stackable certificate within each of the associate degree programs offered by USNCC. These stackable certificates mean USNCC students will be able to build on the education they earn to develop a journey of lifelong learning.
“We want our Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen to continually progress in learning. Through continued lifelong learning, our men and women in uniform are key to enhancing operational readiness and advancing the warfighting advantage over our competitors and adversaries,” said President Randi R. Cosentino, Ed.D., of USNCC. “This Naval Studies Certificate program is a key component to ensuring the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard better develop the intellectual talent we have at all paygrades in the services.”
The Naval Studies Certificate program opened up for a pilot command-referral phase February 1, 2023. These Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen will be directly referred by their commands as prime candidates to earn an independent Naval Studies Certificate.
“For the USNCC to be successful, we have to provide naval-relevant classes and content,” said Dan Goff, Ph.D., professor of Naval Studies and a retired Marine. “The only way we can really ensure that is feedback from the students, but also the commands where those students come from.”
After her studies, Graham was meritoriously promoted to petty officer 2nd class, a process that relies on the Sailor maintaining sustained superior performance as identified by command leadership. While the promotion was not the direct result of her education, Graham said the Naval Studies Certificate helped her take a step back and see how she fit into the bigger picture of the mission.
To learn more about the Naval Studies Certificate program, or to find out more about the command nomination program, go to www.usncc.edu.
The United States Naval Community College is the official community college for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. To get more information about the USNCC, go to www.usncc.edu. Click on the Apply Now link to become a part of the USNCC Pilot II program.