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The Navy College Office (NCO) Education Center held a grand opening for their new offices in Building 17, where counselors are available for all service members, on March 8 at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bethesda.

"The new building is absolutely state of the art and just beautiful," said Jonathan Wood, Gulf Coast Regional Director for the Navy College Program. "It is also symbolic for a lot of service members because it houses fitness and education and represents a major transition for wounded, ill and injured service members as they cross the street from the care facilities."

He added, "the education center is now fully functional and fully staffed to support the educational needs of the broader active duty community in Naval District Washington."

The NCO provides voluntary educational opportunities to service member's unique needs, Wood said. "We engage one-on-one with each service member to provide educational counseling that covers personal interests, abilities and readiness. We also review academic program options that could be a good match for that profile and review and arrange both experiential credit and credit by examination that could combine to reduce the time to degree completion."

He said an Individual Education Plan is developed to give each service member the best probability of meeting their personal and professional goals. "The difference is now we can do it in more inviting, fully accessible spaces with room for counselors, clients and academic advisors to collaborate. Most importantly, the new facility represents the importance and priority our joint services place on the personal and professional development of our service members."

The NCO also gives assistance in applying for tuition assistance and can be used at on-base, off-base, or online institutions, as long as they are regionally or nationally accredited.

"If a service member wants to go to school, the best place to start is academic advisement here at the education office, said Elizabeth Baker, director Navy College Office. "Sometimes [the process] is as simple as forming a degree plan, or in other cases, we'll help you figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life.

"We can facilitate College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests, that count as college credit, and explore how Sailor/Marine American Council on Education Registry Transcript (SMART) credits, which are acquired through military training and advancement, can transfer to academic institutions," Baker said. "Some people find they are closer to their educational goals than they think."

She said on base courses are provided by the University of Maryland University College, Central Texas College and Southern Illinois University during the evening. "We are working on morning classes for shift workers. In addition to our regular schedule of classes, we hold classes in Tranquility Hall to accommodate the Wounded Warrior program, and Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE) courses are taught at qualified deploying units."

Baker explained service members can also take courses offered by Montgomery College through the NCO that could transfer to four-year universities in Maryland.

"A lot of people here at the hospital express interest in nursing or physical therapy, and Montgomery College has a lot of pre- or two-year RN programs, that because of their popularity can have a long waiting list," Baker said. "However, you can apply for the programs while taking classes so you can complete the pre-requisites while on the waiting list, and then when your name comes up you can enroll straight into the program."

For more information on the services the Navy College Office at NSAB offer, or to make an appointment with an academic advisor, contact the office at (301) 295-2014, or contact Elizabeth Baker at (301) 295-5423.