Sgt. Patrick Kelley of the Nevada Army National Guard knows what it's like to earn a degree on the run. He started work on a bachelor's degree at American InterContinental University, an online school, about a year ago. Since starting, the 35-year-old Nevadan has found such a great institution that he's talked six buddies into attending.
"I'm a huge advocate of education," he said. "I think if people don't get it, they're making a huge mistake. As the education NCO (noncommissioned officer) for the unit, I'm practically pushing it down (my soldiers') throats, to be honest."
How old are you? Where did you grow up? Where have you lived in Nevada?
I am 35 and grew up in Arlington, Texas. However, I have lived in Las Vegas for six years. My headquarters was at the Nevada Army National Guard in Carson City. I spent from a week to two weeks in Carson City about every other month. So, about 25 percent of my life while in Nevada was spent in Carson City.
What age were you when you decided to joining the Nevada Guard? How long have you been in?
I have been in the U.S. National Guard for roughly 15 years, about six of those years in the Nevada Army National Guard. I believe I transferred to the Nevada Guard at 29. It is a highly professional and respected Guard organization, especially the 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry, to which I belong.
What do you do full-time?
In truth, there is no distinction between my National Guard job and my civilian job. I have been on active duty for about three years now with the Nevada Guard. Prior to that, I was a government technician supporting the IT (Information Technology) operations for the Nevada Guard for about three years. I now do the same thing on active duty with the 1-221 CAV.
My title is information management officer and I manage our IT assets, IT repair operations and our newly developed Squadron Intranet. I also assist in the development and implementation of IT enhanced operations for field operations. It can be a fun job at times.
What made you seek a bachelor's degree in information systems? Where are you going to school? How long have you been going?
While I am happy in my position with the government, I could see those I worked for possess those educational credentials. It was clear to me that I would have to pursue my degree as well. So, roughly a year ago, I signed up at American InterContinental University and started my BS-IT program and am facing graduation sometime in April.
What difficulties do you run into? Do you have time to do schoolwork while being in the Guard?
We are located at Fort Irwin, Calif., the front-line training element to forces being rotated to Iraq. Without going into too much detail, our mission is to prepare troops who will be deployed to the Southwest Asian region for the dangers and difficulties they will face upon their arrival.
The goal is to greatly reduce casualties caused by unprepared exposure to IEDs, guerilla warfare, cultural considerations and proper societal conduct within the region. In the end, it is our belief that such training reduces casualties on both sides while also reducing or eliminating cultural friction between our troops and the local populous, all this done through military training, cultural education and familiarity with the environment and its people.
Would you recommend the online college to anyone else?
Of course I would recommend the program to others. The IT industry can be, and is, an exciting set of fields with no direction to go but up. Every facet of our modern advancement in this world, as it applies to globalization, medicine, communications, space exploration, to name a few, are largely dependent on true professionals with the right education in information technology.
From programmers and database administrators, to data network and satellite communication engineers, the fundamentals of each are covered in this program. Of course, the real education I believe starts in the masters program, but you can't do one without the other, right?
Are you receiving support - financial and otherwise - from family and your officers in the military?
As far as the military, I am getting great support. There are times where missions come first in a high tempo environment such as ours, but my command understand the importance of education and tries to accommodate that as much as professional possible.
As far as financial assistance, I am using tuition assistance through the Army, and I have available the GI Bill in full come November. So yes the government to date has definitely supported my scholastic efforts. As far as family, well, I am 35. I am a bit too old to be asking Mom for college money.