As Sailors contemplate submitting applications for tuition assistance (TA) for the upcoming summer term, one Navy officer has some advice to share with anyone who will listen—“never take the TA program for granted.”
While starting her Navy career as an information systems technician seaman aboard USS Bataan (LHD 5) in 2005, Lt. Twyla Arbuckle began her TA journey by taking four classes a year with a goal of obtaining an associate degree.
Five years later, Arbuckle was accepted into the Seaman to Admiral-21 program and completed her associate degree at Tidewater Community College.
She then went on to use more than $10,000 in tuition assistance to get her bachelor’s degree in professional communication at Old Dominion University.
Arbuckle’s education goals and drive for personal development came from her father who told her that education would stay with her forever.
“My dad often reminded me that of all the things that may be taken from you, education isn’t one of them,” said Arbuckle.
With that mantra in her head, Arbuckle wasn’t done with TA just yet.
“After I was commissioned, my husband and I got the news that we were going to have a baby, so while on shore duty, I decided to continue my off-duty education.”
Arbuckle spoke with a Navy College Program counselor who introduced her to a one-year program in organizational leadership at National University.
“My counselor was extremely helpful with assisting me in choosing the right degree plan,” said Arbuckle. “She assured me that with hard work I’d be able finish the program just before heading back to sea duty, and she was right.”
For the third time in her career, Arbuckle used TA to pursue her education goals. “Like an old friend, TA was there for me,” said Arbuckle.
A year later at Petco Park Stadium in San Diego, Arbuckle received her master’s degree while holding her baby in her arms.
With 16 years of service under her belt, Arbuckle is looking to use the last of her TA benefits for a certification program, and once retired, she plans to get her doctoral degree using her GI Bill.
With the upgrades in technology in the system, the TA process has progressively gotten easier during Arbuckle’s TA journey.
“Looking back, submitting paperwork and grades was time consuming, but it is so much easier now,” said Arbuckle.
Today, the TA application is completed online and is available to all eligible active-duty Sailors and Reservists in an active-duty status.
“Sailors must have a minimum of two years of military service before becoming eligible to use TA funding,” said Navy College Program Counselor Desmond Pierre-Louis. “After that, and with approval from their command, they can do their required online training and speak directly with a counselor to define their education goals.”
Sailors can then submit their command-approved TA application through the MyNavy Education website no later than 14 days prior to their term start date. They can submit the application request up to 120 days prior to term start.
“Submitting applications early allows sufficient time to resolve any issues,” said Pierre-Louis. “That way, funding authorizations can happen in a timely manner.”
Arbuckle often mentors Sailors about their education goals and tells her story as an example of what is achievable.
“Upon meeting new Sailors that check in to my department, I always ask about their education plans,” said Arbuckle. “I proudly hang my colleges’ pennants in my office so that Sailors can see that it may take some time, but it is definitely possible.”
Arbuckle continues to “pay it forward” by discussing the Navy’s education benefits with any Sailor who will listen.
“It doesn’t matter if a Sailor is in my department or not, I let every Sailor know I’m here to help out with any questions they may have,” said Arbuckle. “And more importantly, that they should never take the TA program for granted.”
For additional information on the Navy College Program, visit www.navycollege.navy.mil to start the education process and complete required training. The Navy College Virtual Education Center can be reached Monday – Thursday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Eastern time, and Friday, 7 a.m.-12p.m. Eastern time toll free 1-877-838-1659. For OCONUS Navy College Office (NCO) information, visit: https://www.navycollege.navy.mil/contact.htm.
As part of the MyNavy HR Force Development team, Naval Education and Training Professional Development Center (NETPDC) provides products and services that enable and enhance education, training, career development, and personnel advancement throughout the Navy. Primary elements of the command include the Voluntary Education Department, the Navy Advancement Center and the Resources Management Department.
Additional information about NETPDC can be found at http://www.netc.navy.mil/netc/netpdc/Default.htm.
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