SAN DIEGO — On the bone-in ribeye shape that makes up Coronado, Naval Amphibious Base Coronado rests just below where the bone meets the meat. Assault Craft Unit 1 has a view of the bottom of the steak in an unassuming gray box building on the waterfront.
“I wear many hats here,” said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Robert LeMonds, of San Antonio, on his experience at the command. He said this has led to many opportunities to work above his paygrade in a variety of aspects to support the command’s mission.
LeMonds was excited to start his educational journey, but since he had been in the Navy about two years at the time, he was not yet eligible for tuition assistance. He found out about United States Naval Community College when NAVADMIN 222/21 was released announcing the start of the school’s second pilot program. “I’m a bit of a nerd,” he said. “I like to read message traffic.” It was through reddit that he found out USNCC offered the competency-based education version of a cybersecurity degree.
The CBE model lets students work at their own pace to complete an education. Instead of a time-based model where students meet weekly requirements and advance upon completion of an eight-week course – the average course length of most of USNCC’s degree programs – CBE lets students like LeMonds complete their education as quickly or slowly as they can learn the material.
It took LeMonds 15 days to complete his first course “partially because I had the prior background and knowledge.” The other reason he completed the course so fast is because he was “going at it every night.” He said he wanted to be aggressive with it.
LeMonds has completed three courses with Western Governors University – the cybersecurity CBE partner institution for USNCC. While he was able to lean on his knowledge and experience for the first two courses, the third course was a bit more challenging for him.
“This was not my strong suit, and I knew that going into the class,” said LeMonds about his scripting and programming class. He thought he had failed the final exam, but when he got an A, he said, “I thought it was really cool that all that knowledge got retained.” He said the course made it much easier to understand the material than he expected.
There were 178 Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen that signed up to be among the first USNCC students to start the CBE program. This program includes six built-in CompTIA certificates. Students that complete the Associate of Science in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance walk away with certificates in A+, Network+, Security+, CySA+, Secure Infrastructure Specialist, and Security Analytics Professional.
“We designed this course with the student in mind,” said Chuck Cushman, Ph.D., the dean of academic programs at USNCC. “These certifications help set them up for success as a professional both while in the service and after their time in uniform. It’s about the holistic service member.”
After he completed his first three cybersecurity courses, LeMonds started the first of five courses in the Naval Studies Certificate. This five-course, 15-credit certificate program is embedded in each degree program at USNCC. The first course focuses on naval ethics and leadership, and LeMonds said that this course has challenged his preconceptions on what that looks like. If LeMonds stays on the anticipated pathway for the degree, he will alternate back and forth between taking three courses with WGU and one naval studies course until he meets all degree requirements.
“Not only is LeMonds becoming a better technician,” said Sgt. Maj. Mike Hensley, USNCC’s command senior enlisted leader, “he is becoming a better leader and warfighter. He is gaining industry knowledge and bringing it inside the engagement zone, and providing training to his peers and those he leads along the way.”
“When you’re more knowledgeable, they seek you out more,” said LeMonds. “It makes you better because you’re able to teach them and you’re able to transfer that knowledge down. It just makes everybody in the shop better.”
To learn more about the cybersecurity 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.