By Harlan Kefalas - May 22nd, 2017
Harlan Kefalas is a current online university student and enlisted Army truck driver. In this post he shares his experience of serving in the military while completing his college education online. Colorado State University-Global Campus is proud to support our men and women in the armed forces. For more information about military enrollment at CSU Global, click here.
Like my high school friends, after graduating from high school I went straight to a four-year university. After a year, I dropped out to enlist in the United States Army in 1999. I fully intended on continuing my education, but desired some life experience and needed to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. At that time, online universities were almost nonexistent.
At my first duty station, Turley Barracks in Mannheim Germany, my only option to continue my education was night school. Every Monday and Wednesday evening, I would drive to Funari barracks in Mannheim Germany and sit in a classroom for three hours. After being ready for a 6:00 a.m. barracks room inspection, physical training, and a full day of work, the last thing I wanted to do was spend three hours listening to a lecture and take notes. I persevered, and completed Principles of Accounting I, and enrolled in Principles of Accounting II. Two weeks in, I was told our unit would be deploying to Kosovo before the class ended. I had to drop out, putting my education on hold.
Four years later, online universities became a realistic option. I enrolled in a military-friendly university, one whose tuition costs were completely covered by army tuition assistance. With eight week courses, I could plan schooling around field exercises – either by finishing work ahead of time or by taking a break between courses. If I had remained in traditional brick and mortar classrooms, it would have been more difficult.
Two weeks in, I was told our unit would be deploying to Kosovo before the class ended. I had to drop out, putting my education on hold.
In 2007, I deployed to Afghanistan. A benefit of six years of settlement was that internet access was almost everywhere. When I lived on Bagram Air Base, I even had internet access in my room. Access proved more difficult on other bases, where I had to wait in line for my turn at the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation computer labs. Schoolwork kept me busy between missions and proved a positive distraction during my fifteen-month deployment.
I decided to change schools for my bachelor’s degree, and enrolled in CSU Global. I then became a drill sergeant – a job known for its long hours and demanding schedule. Basic training is split into three phases, Red, White and Blue. Red phase is the most time intensive, and my day usually started around 4:00 am and ended after 8:00 pm. During that phase there were countless nights when I would sink into my recliner after work and be woken by my wife on her way to bed.
Despite the time challenges, I still completed college courses. I would plan around red phase, as best I could. Completing courses was not always easy. Towards the end of the course, I would have a final exam or a long paper to complete, which was a challenge to complete at home. Sometimes my wife would take our children to the park so I could have a quiet house for a couple of hours.
I found an unintended benefit of online education is becoming comfortable with virtual group work, which is required by some classes. Working together over different time zones was good practice for the business world – and exposed me to virtual collaboration methods. Virtual teams are becoming used more frequently, and the experience has proved invaluable.
Working together over different time zones was good practice for the business world – and exposed me to virtual collaboration methods.
I understand firsthand the difficult demands military service asks of its enlisted personnel. Online education provides the flexibility and freedom to balance education with a military career. Carving out a little time for your education will pay off greatly. Not only is it part of the career map, but it will better equip you for your life after the army.
He is an active duty truck driver who has served in a variety of leadership positions and units with deployments to Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. A lifelong learner, he realizes the importance of education. He is the Chief Financial Officer of the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum and is currently pursuing a Masters of Professional Studies with a concentration in Organizational Leadership from Fort Hays State University. Feel free to contact @HarlanKefalas.