Bourbon & Battles is pleased to welcome Nathan Lunde as today’s guest author. Check out Nathan’s bio below the story.
There are many reasons a person would choose to join the military. These reasons can include patriotism, sense of social duty, family tradition, need for a job, sense of adventure and the list is as varied as the members of our Armed Forces. A big motivation for joining the military is the education benefits that are made available to active service members as well as veterans. There is a myriad of programs which can be used to assist with paying for education, and it is important that members and veterans alike know what those programs are in order to ensure that they are fully utilized and the individuals are able to make themselves more competitive amongst their peers in the civilian and military work force.
The goal of this post is to outline some of these programs. I will address some of the benefits offered by the five services but the focus will primarily be on the benefits afforded to those who currently serve or have served in the US Army.
Let’s start with probably the best-known education benefit available to service members and veterans: the GI Bill. There are five classes of GI Bill benefits for service members and veterans. They are the Post 9-11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill for Active Duty (MGIB-AD), MGIB for Selective Reserve (MGIB-SR), the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP), and the Veteran’s Educational Assistance Program (VEAP). Refer to the chart below or to the VA website for a quick snapshot and comparison of the five classes. GI Bill benefits are also available to surviving dependents, and opportunities exist to transfer GI Bill benefits to dependents, but that is beyond the scope of this post.
Perhaps the next most known benefit is Federal Tuition Assistance (TA). This may be one of the main reasons people choose to enlist. The great thing about TA is that an active service member can use it to take college courses while on active duty. This is a great benefit for the motivated service member who wants to take classes on nights and weekends or online. Eligibility criteria are established by each service, but generally if a service member is on active duty or a member of the Reserves, that service member is eligible, with the exception of the US Marine Corps. Additionally, members of the National Guard are eligible for TA if in an active duty status. Beyond Federal TA, many of states also offer TA through the Air and Army National Guard. Visit Military.com for a very helpful chart to compare the different eligibility requirements.
I would like to pause for a moment before I continue to highlight some important points. With the two programs above a service member or veteran can quite simply earn a college degree or degrees. An individual could join service and start their degree plan using TA. Once they have met their obligation, they can separate from the service and apply to their college, utilizing their GI Bill benefits to complete their degree. Second, an individual could complete their first degree while on active duty using TA, then separate and complete a second degree, bachelors or masters, using their GI Bill benefits. Again, this is simple, but not easy. The individual still has to join, serve and complete their service obligations and course requirements. But, it is simply available and can be put to use.
ROTC/Green to Gold
The Army Green to Gold program is a way for a currently serving enlisted soldier to attend college and finish a bachelor’s degree or complete a two-year master’s degree and earn a commission as an officer. In many cases, the soldier will still receive the pay and benefits of an active duty soldier and will be afforded two or more years to complete their degree. This is a great opportunity for soldiers who have a desire to earn their degree and want to make the jump to “The Dark Side.” More information can be found at the Go Army website.
There are also many opportunities for Army officers to further their education beyond a bachelor’s degree. They include, but are not limited to, the Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP), Graduate School for Active Duty Service Obligation (GRADSO), the Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS) program, the Performance Based Graduate School Incentive Program (PB-GSIP), Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), and many more in addition to using TA and their GI Bill. Most of these have some kind of additional Active Duty Service Obligation (ADSO) tied to the education benefit. For example, a currently serving officer utilizing the GRADSO owes three days of additional service for every day of education benefits, which amounts to really six years for a two year graduate program.
As you can see there are many ways in which a person can achieve their educational goals while also serving their country. I encourage anyone to seriously consider each and every one of these opportunities while you pursue your time in service.
Nathan Lunde is a Field Artillery Officer in the United States Army and a Master of Business Administration candidate at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. He has a light hearted blog about home brewing and garage gym lifting at barbellsbooksandbrewing.com.
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