Higher Education

Higher Education

By: Garland Davis


I completed High School before enlisting in the Navy.  I always felt that the greatest benefit I gained from school was a love of books. My grandmother taught me to read and write before I started elementary school.  I couldn’t begin to count the number of books I have read since 1951 when I discovered them. I wasn’t really interested in education in my youth.  Fortunately for me, I never had difficulty remembering information that I read or heard from the teacher in the classroom.  From a very early age, I wanted the Navy.  That was my childhood goal which I attained at the age of seventeen.

At the time I enlisted, the Navy had a program for high school graduates. They were enlisted at paygrade High School Seaman (HSSN).  Which basically meant that I would leave boot camp as an SN instead of SA.  I went into the Navy as an SN (E-3) instead of Seaman Recruit. After fifteen years in the Navy, I decided to take advantage of the on-base programs to go to college.  Within three years I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management with credits earned through classroom work and the CLEP Program.  After spending eight years afloat on forward deployed ships in Japan I returned to Pearl harbor for a twilight tour, I decided to study for a Master Degree.  I earned an MBA before I retired from the Navy.

After retiring, I took a position as a middle manager for a fast food company.  The company had a program that would pay fifty percent of the tuition for managers who were pursuing a Master’s Degree and would repay the manager for his portion of the tuition upon receiving the degree.  The PR Department approved my request to study for a second Master’s Degree.  I took that degree in History.

At the time I took the last Master’s I thought my educational endeavors were finished. But, about three years ago, I decided to take some courses in English and Writing in an effort improve my writing abilities.  I signed up with a New England University that has an excellent online program.  The counselor who interviewed me by phone encouraged me to provide transcripts and select a degree program.  I explained that I was sixty-nine years old and just wanted to take a few courses and wasn’t interested in another degree.  She then started telling me about all the financial assistance available.  I assured her that I would pay for my courses.  She rather reluctantly enrolled me in an undergrad course in creative writing and poetry.

I did well in the course and enrolled in a graduate level course in literature and after that a grad course in creative writing.  When I attempted to enroll in another course, I was informed that before I could take more courses, I would have to provide transcripts and enroll in a degree program.  That, I guess, is the end of further education. I want to take the courses that appeal to me, not to fill some niche toward another useless degree.

I have heard it said that attaining college degrees demonstrates one’s perseverance and devotion to the goal of gaining the degree.  I was thinking that since I am eaten up with ADHD, obtaining the levels of education that I have must really show that perseverance.

Here I sit with almost as many degrees as a thermometer.  Looking back on attaining these educational milestones, I realized that I got much more satisfaction each time I completed a course for advancement, was actually advanced, and graduating as the honor man in the “CS B” school and in the BEQ Managers course. Each of these courses and schools helped me in the Navy.  I cannot say that anything I learned in business school benefited my Navy career at all.

I knew a Third Class Musician with a PHD in Music.  That level of education didn’t improve his ability to play the trumpet and clarinet.  He left the Navy after one tour and ended up driving a long haul truck.  I knew a Captain who went on to Rear Admiral with a degree in Preservation and Forestry.  I doubt that it helped him fly fighters during WWII and jet aircraft during the Korean War.

A number of years ago a Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy proposed that educational achievements become a requirement for advancement to the upper enlisted grades.  The proposal suggested that to be advanced to E-6 an Associate’s Degree would be required; for E-7 a Bachelor’s Degree would be required; for E-8 a Master’s Degree would be required; for E-9 progress toward a Doctorate would be necessary.  Here, I deliberately neglected to use the terms Chief, Senior Chief, and Master Chief.

A group of us, all retired Chiefs, Senior Chief, and Master Chiefs, were having a couple of cool ones in my neighbor’s garage and discussing this.  The consensus of the group was that none of us would have made the Navy a career.  A retired Master Chief who had served thirty years in the submarine force and had been the Chief of the Boat (COB) on two separate submarines, as well as Command Master Chief in a Submarine Squadron remarked, “What the hell will a PHD do for me in a submarine. I already have a PHD.  I spent thirty years in submarines. I already have a PHD. A PHD in submarines.”

I believe the sailor and the Navy probably benefits more from deckplate training of Officers and Enlisted persons in their professional and military duties instead of demanding higher degrees of educational achievement in disciplines that, more often than not, have no relevance to his Navy duty requirements.



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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.



2 thoughts on “Higher Education

  1. T. Killham says:

    A great story. I never graduated from high school, and I joined the Navy in 1964. I did eventually get my GED, and I retired as a Master Chief (AVCM) in 1988. I don’t believe that can be done in today’s Navy.


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