Reservists Called for Bosnia Can Earn Education
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
FORT DIX, N.J., Jan. 16, 1996 When officials here interviewed more than 1,500 guardsmen and reservists last summer during annual training, they were startled with what they discovered.
More than 70 percent of the reserve component personnel didnt know much about GI Bill benefits.
"Some of them were also unaware of free testing and services available to them at local Army education centers," said Ramona H. Montovani, an education services specialist with the Dix Education Center.
Fort Dix officials conducted the exercise to get an idea of what to expect during mobilization. The practice paid off recently when about 1,000 reserve component personnel flocked into Fort Dix to process and train to support the NATO peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.
"I asked every commander for time to talk to their troops about educational opportunities," said Montovani, an education services specialist. "About 50 percent of them let me do it. It was amazing how receptive and interested the troops were about what they could do."
Montovani and other education specialists at Fort Dix suggested three ways for reservists to take advantage of opportunities while on active duty. First, they can enroll in Defense Activity for Nontraditional Education Support correspondence courses. Second, they can enroll in DANTES Distance Learning courses using tuition assistance and take free DANTES tests to earn college credit. Finally, they can enroll in Army correspondence courses. Also, service members in Germany enrolled in certain offduty college classes can receive 75 percent tuition assistance or use their GI Bill benefits.
Reservists and guardsmen of all services can use Army education services in Germany and Bosnia, Montovani said. "The only thing we cant do for members of other services is give them tuition assistance. They have to go through their chain of command for that.
Montovani said she received another surprise when the Europebound troops arrived at the Dix processing center. "I was impressed with their education level," she said. "In some units, about 85 percent have degrees or are attending college."
Reserve component personnel have the same type of educational opportunities given service members during the Persian Gulf War, Montovani said. During the gulf war, education services specialists provided testing services and correspondence courses out of tent barracks, she said.
Service members receive tuition assistance upon course completion.
Montovani encourages young service members with little or no college to take advantage of servicemembers opportunity colleges in their states when they return home. "The schools will evaluate their military experience for college credit," she said.
"DANTES testing is free," Montovani noted. You can earn up to 30 college credits by taking College Level Examination Program examinations. Thats a year's worth of college credit that doesn't cost you a nickel."
There are DANTES examination programs for high school completion tests, college admission tests, college creditbyexamination and professional recognition.
"We're also encouraging soldiers to use their pink [reserve military] identification card to take these tests at any Army education center when they get back home," Montovani said.
"When I tell soldiers about these programs, some of them say, 'Really? You mean that's free? I can do that.'"