USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 are working toward college degrees through the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE) while on their current deployment, which began Jan. 4.
Ronald Reagan's NCPACE program, also known as "Ronald Reagan University," is well into its third semester since the ship left its homeport of San Diego on a routine deployment.
According to Lt. Bill Kuzma, Ronald Reagan's educational services officer (ESO), 2,804 Sailors have signed up for NCPACE instructor-led courses or distance education courses since the beginning of deployment.
"I have been in the Navy for 19 years, and I am just amazed at the level of participation we have from our Sailors. Their motivation makes my job much easier and enjoyable," said Kuzma, "as well as the support from the entire chain of command, which has given them the time off to attend these classes. And to Navy College personnel who have given our program extraordinary support from ashore."
NCPACE courses, targeted specifically for shipboard and deployed Sailors, allow college professors to live aboard ship and teach college-level courses to Sailors while underway. Additional distance education courses are available for students to complete by using CD-ROMs containing course lectures and information.
The courses are provided through the Navy College Office and funded entirely by the U.S. Navy, but Sailors pay for course materials, such as books. Courses offered during Ronald Reagan's current deployment have consisted of core-curriculum college classes such as English, history, science and math.
The Navy College Office has paid more than $309,000 in tuition costs for Ronald Reagan Sailors during the current deployment.
According to Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Edward Stackpole, the opportunity to earn money for college was one of the reasons he joined the Navy, and being allowed to take courses while underway is an added bonus.
"The instructors know we work long hours and are very supportive," said Stackpole. "But it's the same knowledge you would receive at a college."
NCPACE instructors aboard Ronald Reagan acknowledge that they are working in a unique environment and must sometimes adjust the curriculum to accommodate a compressed semester.
"NCPACE courses go by so much faster than standard college courses that we really have to adjust the curriculum," said Don Burdett, an NCPACE instructor aboard Ronald Reagan.
"A normal college class runs for 13 weeks. The classes I teach on board only last for eight. You have to really focus on the essentials of your subject," said Burdett. "There's not time for anything else."
During the current NCPACE term, Ronald Reagan's ESO has six instructors teaching 1,050 students in 36 classes over the next two months.
Ronald Reagan and CVW-14 are currently deployed in the Persian Gulf as part of a routine rotation of U.S. maritime forces in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, as well as conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the region.
MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.
Commissioned in 2003, Ronald Reagan is the Navy's newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and departed San Diego Jan. 4 on her maiden deployment.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.