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Navy Senior Chief Shares Education Journey, Advises Sailors to Take Advantage of Education Opportunities

19 May 2021

From Cheryl Dengler, Naval Education and Training Professional Development Center

A senior chief assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), is sharing his personal education journey with Sailors and giving advice from lessons learned along the way.
PENSACOLA, Fla.—A senior chief assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), is sharing his personal education journey with Sailors and giving advice from lessons learned along the way.

Senior Chief Air Traffic Controlman Alex McCardle-Blunk earned his associate degree in aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in December 2017 and is working on his next goal—a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics at the same university.

Inspired by self-improvement and motivated to advance to the next pay grade, McCardle-Blunk used tuition assistance (TA) to get to where he is today.

“My associate degree was driven by the Navy’s encouragement to go to school to get promoted,” said McCardle-Blunk. “Now, my goal is driven by the civilian job market. As I get closer to retirement I am counting on my degree to make me competitive.”

McCardle-Blunk completed his associate degree using TA, and because there are limits on TA usage, he plans on using a combination of TA and his GI Bill education benefits to finish his bachelor’s degree.

“With my Joint Services Transcript (JST) and my associate degree, I am only eight courses away from completing my bachelor’s in aeronautics,” said McCardle-Blunk. “After four classes and two terms, I’ve reached my TA cap and plan to use my GI Bill for the rest of the fiscal year which should more than suffice.”


McCardle-Blunk believes the process to apply and utilize TA has improved significantly over the years.

“The TA program has become so much easier to use than it used to be when I started in 2006,” said McCardle-Blunk.  “Back then you needed to fill out a paper form and route it through your chain of command.”

Today, the entire TA application is completed online and is available to eligible active-duty Sailors and Reservists in an active-duty status.

“Now the TA website is very intuitive,” said McCardle-Blunk. “It’s very easy to apply for TA and easy for me to walk my Sailors through it as well.”

As long as Sailors meet the eligibility requirements and are approved by their command, they have the opportunity to take up to 12 credit hours using TA or the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE) per year.

“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.”

Once the training and counseling is complete, Sailors submit their TA/NCPACE application through the MyNavy Education website, where it must be command approved prior to funding being authorized. Applications can be submitted 120 days in advance and no later than 14 days prior to the start of the term.

“Submitting applications early allows sufficient time to resolve any issues,” said Pierre-Louis. “That way, funding authorizations can happen in a timely manner.”


McCardle-Blunk often tells Sailors not only to get started in their education if it is right for them but to stick with it if they continue their education.

“Don’t do what I did and take 11 years being ‘wishy-washy’ with it,” said McCardle-Blunk. “Stick with it and set an end goal date.”

Doing his job in the Navy along with getting his education was tough for McCardle-Blunk, but the reward was worth the effort.

“Balancing work, family, school and recreation can be difficult, so don’t burn yourself out,” said McCardle-Blunk. “For motivation, it helped me to remember I was doing it for me and my family’s future and not just because someone told me I should.”

Though he knows continued education may not work for everyone, McCardle-Blunk always advises Sailors to take advantage of the opportunities as they become available.

“Find what works best for you and your situation,” said McCardle-Blunk. “Take advantage of skill-building opportunities as they arise in your military career; they can make you more competitive in the Navy as well as later in the civilian job market.”

For more information on the Navy College Program, visit The Navy College Virtual Education Center (NCVEC) can be reached Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Eastern time, toll free at 1-877-838-1659. For Navy College Office information outside the Continental United States, visit

As part of the MyNavy HR Force Development team, 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
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