Soldier uses resources to earn degree while deployed

Editor’s Note: Staff Sgt. Sidney Hoffmann, from Owensboro, Ky., is a signal support system specialist with the 149th Brigade Support Battalion in Louisville. Originally from Texas, Hoffmann moved to Kentucky after Basic Combat Training to pursue her education. She recently graduated with her bachelor’s degree in human resource management while deployed to Afghanistan with Agribusiness Development Team 5.

Commentary by Staff Sgt. Sidney Hoffmann, Agribusiness Development Team 5

SSG Sidney Hoffmann

Staff Sgt. Sidney Hoffmann with Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 5 recently graduated with her college degree from Ashford University while deployed to Afghanistan. Hoffmann’s father accepted her diploma during the school’s commencement in Moline, Ill., May 5, 2013. (Courtesy photo)

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan –Many Soldiers choose to join the military for a number of reasons: building of skills and abilities, supporting the war, better life for their families, fitness goals and education opportunities.  In my personal experience, I joined the National Guard for a few reasons.  The biggest reason was to ensure I could obtain my education without the financial support of my family and take responsibility for my future.

I was awarded my Associate’s in Arts with emphasis in Music and Art History at a community college hoping to pursue my Music Business degree at Eastern Kentucky University.  After spending a year on campus, I needed a change.  I enjoyed EKU, but I was struggling financially and I had lost the passion to follow my dreams in the music industry.

After dropping out of college in 2007 to work full time, I realized I needed to refocus and take a hard look at what I wanted out of my education.  I decided to volunteer to deploy to Iraq and start school online while I was in country.  Like most Soldiers, I came up with every excuse why I did not have the time to get started.  After I returned from deployment, I determined I had procrastinated enough and started searching www.militaryonesource.mil for a suitable university.

I found Ashford University, called to get set up and the rest is history.   The benefits of Ashford were astronomical compared to what I had experienced in the past.   They have a veteran’s program that waves all of the tuition fees, the credit hour was no more than $250, and the electronic books were free and downloadable.  It is an incredible resource enabling a student to access classes and books all from a laptop or phone while on the go.  The class requirements are ideal for traveling and stationary Soldiers, the instructors are highly knowledgeable and flexible, and (best of all) many class mates are people just like you.

It took me a little over three years to finish my bachelor’s in human resource management.  I was able to take breaks in between and my advisor always helped me get right back on track.  GoArmyEd has also come a long way since it was established.  Ashford is very familiar with the student voucher process,  the transactions, and transcript updates.  All are completed between Ashford University and the Kentucky National Guard’s education department.

SSG Hoffmann 2

Staff Sgt. Sidney Hoffmann (right) with Sgt. Jamie Pungirum, both with Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 5 in Afghanistan. (Courtesy photo)

As I was coming to the end of my degree, I knew it would be a challenge to maintain my high GPA while going through pre deployment training as well as turning in assignments on time.  Not once did I have an issue meeting the requirements.  One day, while waiting my turn to qualify on the M9 and M16 range, I responded to my classmates through my phone using the Ashford University Application.  That’s just an example of how easy it is to make it happen.

I finished my degree this past February with a 3.84 GPA, graduated with honors, and became a member of Alpha Sigma Lambda.  I really wanted to attend or at least participate in my graduation somehow from Afghanistan.  With the eager assistance from Ashford, they asked me to find a proxy to go in my place, and they would take care of the expenses.  They made my father and my grandfather feel right at home.  As I watched the video of the ceremony from Afghanistan, I became emotional and in awe of the profound sound of the audience cheering when they announced my name and explained why my father was accepting my degree.  The feeling of accomplishing one of my major goals in life is a relief and both my family and I were able to take part in it together.

Click here to see the story of Hoffmann’s father accepting her diploma.

My message to the Soldiers out there is to give education a chance.   Ashford University is one of the many military supporting universities out there, but it all starts with the individual.  Forget the excuses, how much it costs, and make the time.  If you want it bad enough, MAKE IT HAPPEN.  There are so many resources and support systems to help a Soldier increase their education.

It is never too late to start and you will be surprised in the amount of pride you will hold for yourself when you receive that diploma.

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