USS CARL VINSON (NNS) -- In less than three months on deployment, more than 900 Sailors and Marines aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) have participated in Navy College Programs for Afloat College Education, better known as NCPACE.
For the hard-working crew, including the embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, 12-hour shifts are not uncommon. Despite these long shifts, an increasingly large percentage of the team is still hard at work in class long after their shifts come to an end.
"We're in the second term right now," said Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Jackson of Carl Vinson's training
department. "Despite their busy schedules, we've had an increasing number of students for each term. We expect over 1,300 to take advantage of the PACE program by the end of cruise."
Carl Vinson is setting a new standard with the success of its PACE program during the current deployment.
According to Central Texas College officials, who are the sole suppliers of instructors for the Navy program, they determine the number of deployed teachers by the amount of interest at each command. Nine instructors have been dispatched to Carl Vinson, which is almost twice the number sent to any other carrier currently deployed -- a telling statistic of the Gold Eagle's thirst for knowledge.
"My chain of command has really supported me," said Seaman Stephen Spencer from Carl Vinson's deck department. "They have adjusted my schedule to allow me to attend class and got me off the watch bill when I needed it."
Carl Vinson's educational services officer (ESO), his staff and Vinson's training department can be credited with the program's monumental success.
"Our goal has been to have 100 percent contact and one-on-one time with every (crew member) to build up the demand for this program," said Ensign Steven Green, Carl Vinson's ESO.
Classes are offered daily from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. to provide crew members from day and night shifts ample opportunity to take part.
"Our objective is to give our (shipmates) an opportunity to meet all of their core requirements for an Associate's Degree or even a Bachelor's," said Jackson.
In addition to the PACE courses, CLEP, DANTES, GED, SAT and ACT tests have been made available to the crew. A handful of Vinson's advanced scholars are even taking advantage of MBA courses offered via video teleconferencing.
Although logistically streamlined, the program still presents a challenging classroom environment, said NCPACE Instructor Dr. Guy Bomar.
"Outside elements like the noise and the busy work schedules of these students can be distractions," said Bomar. "However, the students are motivated to get ahead while they have this opportunity."
With the Navy making a clear effort to encourage its deployed members to strive for higher education, Carl Vinson is leading the way.
"The requirements are changing for junior enlisted to advance to the khaki level," said Jackson. "An Associate's used to mean that you were probably ahead of your peers. Now, many junior-enlisted Sailors and Marines are earning Bachelor's Degrees."
And many more will earn a degree soon, thanks to the efforts of Carl Vinson's ESO staff, training department and the dedication of the crew.
Carl Vinson is currently deployed to the Arabian Gulf. The aircraft carrier is conducting operations in support of multinational forces in Iraq and maritime security operations in the Gulf, in order to set the conditions for security and stability in the region.
For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70.