Soldiers taking advantage of military education opportunities

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
FORT CAMPBELL, KY - While members of the 776th Maintenance Company spend their days supporting the community around Fort Campbell and helping other Army units prepare for their assignments, many of the company members are also taking advantage of some opportunities that would not normally be afforded to their unit.
"We're taking advantage of some of the military schools," said Capt. Larry Northcutt of the 776th. "It's really hard sometimes for the soldiers to get off of work to go to schools."
Many of the military schools last for a week or more; often it is hard for soldiers who are in a reserve unit and have jobs outside of the Army to get time off to attend additional training schools.
"For myself as well as for many of the others, it is hard to go to an employer and ask for the time off, and it's hard for the employer too," Northcutt said. "But we're already here now."
Another issue that often prevents members of the 776th Company from attending military schools is funding shortages in the state government. "With us being a National Guard unit, the state wouldn't be able to afford to send us to all of these schools," said First Sgt. Thomas Hughes of the 776th, adding that since the unit is on active duty, they are able to attend the schools. "We've really taken advantage of that now by sending soldiers to all of these military schools."
In addition to attending military schools, some members of the company are also taking advantage of some other education opportunities while they are stationed at Fort Campbell.
"Many of the soldiers are taking advantage of civilian education benefits in their off duty hours," Northcutt said, adding that the classes attended by soldiers at local colleges are paid for by the Army.
Starting soon, some soldiers will be attending a civilian Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course held at a local college. "A lot of our soldiers have applied for that in the afternoons after work," Hughes said.
Members of the 776th have attended HazMat (Hazardous Materials) school, Environmental School, Combat Life Saver courses, a Master Driver course, various military computer schools, a drug and alcohol education program called Unit Prevention Leader, classes on drug screenings and MOS schools at Fort Lee, Va. and Fort Lynnwood, Mo.
Members of the company have also attended the Army's elite Air Assault School, which puts soldiers through an 11-day-long intensive course, pushing them to their physical limits. "I didn't think it was going to be that hard but it was," said Sgt. Richard Haney who graduated from the school. "I had heard horror stories about it."
During the school, soldiers were taught various styles of repelling and received classroom training and tests to gauge the measure of their skills and knowledge.
On the last day of the school, soldiers had to complete a 12-mile forced march in full gear and with a weapon weighing approximately 50 pounds in a three hour time frame. "It looked like we had just climbed out of the pool we were sweating so much," Haney said of the final test of the course.
A lot of planning goes into allowing the soldiers from the company to attend the military schools. "Part of my job and (Hughes') job is to evaluate and see who can spare to go to the schools without affecting the mission," Northcutt said. "The mission comes first."