As an Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 1st Class (AW1) for the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, John Phillips knows the value of a sailor’s motivation for self-improvement.
When Phillips was close to completing his undergraduate degree, he began to think of finding a master’s program. Emboldened by his success as an undergrad, he searched various schools and their graduate programs. Phillips is a first-generation college graduate, so his academic success held a lot of meaning for his family and they encouraged him to pursue a graduate degree.
“OU and the College of Liberal Studies provided the right program for my goal, so I applied and experienced the thrill of acceptance,” Phillips said.
Paying for an education is always on any student’s mind. Phillips was no different.
“I enlisted in the Navy to serve my country and was aware the GI Bill provided an opportunity to complete my education,” Phillips said. “Once in the Navy, the additional educational benefits offered such as Tuition Assistance (TA), Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE) and college-level exams came as a welcome surprise. Each time I reenlisted, the educational benefits—which far exceed those offered in most civilian employment—became a reinforcing factor for staying in.”
Each time I reenlisted, the educational benefits—which far exceed those offered in most civilian employment—became a reinforcing factor for staying in.
NCPACE, one of several programs offered by Navy Voluntary Education (VOLED), is available to officers and enlisted sailors assigned to ships and deployable commands (Type 2 and 4 duty). This provides them with undergraduate and graduate educational opportunities that are on par with those available to sailors on shore duty. With all of their tuition provided for, students are responsible only for the cost of textbooks and materials.
Additionally, NCPACE courses have an added benefit of not counting against a sailor’s annual maximum TA funding cap. This, when coupled with the low cost of enrollment, makes NCPACE among the best educational opportunities the Navy offers. Approximately 7,200 sailors participated in the program in FY-13, and accounted for more than 10,700 enrollments.
Once Phillips enrolled in the program and started his course work, he discovered the academic rigor of a master’s program seemed daunting, but if he took the time to read and contemplate the material, it was manageable. The variety of topics covered offered depth to his understanding of the subjects. Throughout the degree program, he found the study of human interaction to be the most engaging.
“My understanding of human behavior and interpersonal communication has increased significantly as a direct result of the coursework. For practical application, I interact with people all day, every day, which gives me the opportunity to utilize what I have learned,” he said.
When thinking about his greatest achievements, Phillips knows specific knowledge is invaluable in certain situations. However, obtaining his master’s degree had the greatest impact on his thinking process.
“Preconceived notions, assumptions and prejudices were challenged by rational thought and academic research, which broadened my understanding of how and why certain phenomena exist,” Phillips said.
As a result, Phillips found many decisions or policies that initially seemed illogical were enacted as a result of historical necessity. Often those who made the decisions also considered the ramifications when setting up what was necessary for the greater good. Understanding the reasoning behind “seemingly foolish decisions or policies” gave Phillips the opportunity to change or augment those policies based on empirical data and rational thought, rather than emotion or perception. Phillips views himself with more potential to be a better leader through his understanding of the importance of methodical decision making.
Our leadership recognizes that off-duty education is voluntary, but they consider it valuable and a direct reflection on a Sailor’s level of motivation for self-improvement.
When Phillips thinks about his greatest accomplishment, he understands that each accomplishment lays the groundwork for the next one. He quickly realized how completing his master’s degree taught him to dig a little deeper.
“Was the achievement in the learning or was the achievement completing all of the degree requirements?” Phillips said. “I have been honored with awards from the Navy and I have earned frame-worthy pieces of paper from academic institutions. Although I am proud of both, they were a result of action or applying effort to knowledge. Practical and academic knowledge can be considered an achievement, which I believe is the reason master plumbers, lawyers, mechanics and psychiatrists all get a piece of paper to hang on their walls. These documents represent a mastery of the minimum level of knowledge, but the real achievement is their continued quest for knowledge. Therefore, I think my greatest achievement is my thirst for knowledge, whether it is wiring a garage for 220V or understanding [German philosopher] Immanuel Kant.”
Phillips plans to remain in the U.S. Navy for at least the next 10 years. The Navy offers many job opportunities and he’s investigating a few right now. At some point in the near future, he plans to begin yet another academic endeavor.
“Our leadership recognizes that off-duty education is voluntary, but they consider it valuable and a direct reflection on a Sailor’s level of motivation for self-improvement,” he explained. “As such, off-duty education has become a standard question during our sailor of the Year and Quarter boards, mid-term counselings and career development boards. Every sailor is encouraged to take advantage of the various VOLED programs the Navy offers.”
Phillips is determined to do just that. Right now, he’s “still reading the menu” to determine where his next step in lifelong learning will take him.
John Phillips is a U.S. Navy Aviation Administrationman 1st Class (Aviation Warfare), who has served around the world and most recently as a Maintenance Control representative and Educational Services Officer for the U.S. Navy’s world renowned flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels. He has worked with some of the finest pilots and maintenance professionals in the Navy and Marine Corps, and is continuing his service at Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tennessee.
Update: The College of Liberal Studies was renamed the College of Professional and Continuing Studies in 2017.