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

US Navy | Nov. 22, 2021

By Cheryl Dengler, Naval Education and Training Professional Development Center

PENSACOLA, Fla.: A senior chief assigned to Surface Division Two One is sharing his personal education journey with Sailors, giving advice and sharing lessons learned along the way.

Engineman Senior Chief David Alegria earned his associate degree, bachelor’s degree, and Master of Science in management while serving in the Navy.

Alegria understood the importance of getting a higher education and knew it would help his career in the Navy.

 “Earning degrees while in the Navy separated me from my peers in rankings and evaluations, and allowed me to achieve goals others have not,” said Alegria.

Additionally, he was motivated by his family and the potential for enhanced opportunities throughout and after his Navy career.

“My motivation was two-fold,” said Alegria. “To prepare for life after the Navy by gaining that added knowledge, and also to be the only person in the family generation to achieve this level of education.”

Alegria completed his degrees using tuition assistance (TA), and believes the process is simple to use, especially after taking that first step.

“The Navy College Virtual Education Center (NCVEC) has a plethora of knowledge for Sailors new to college, which may be intimidating at first,” said Alegria. “Once the first class has begun, the process for attending subsequent classes is extremely easy.”

Sailors can complete the entire TA application online.

“As the approving official (AO) for my command, one of the most common misconceptions is the timing process,” said Alegria. “Some Sailors believe it takes many months for approvals and others think they can simply pick any school and be approved the same day. Nevertheless, an efficient process exists that best suits the Sailor. That is why discussing the process with their respective AO and the NCVEC is vital to achieve success.”

As long as Sailors meet the eligibility requirements and are approved by their command, they have the opportunity to take up to 18 credit hours using TA or the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE) per year. There have been recent changes to the tuition assistance program, and Sailors should review NAVADMIN 214/21 and the Navy College Program website to determine their eligibility before getting started.

Once eligible Sailors complete required online training and counseling, they submit a TA/NCPACE application via the MyNavy Education website.  The Sailor’s command approver reviews the application, and once approved, the TA funding is made available at the appropriate time.

Attending classes while accomplishing his command’s overall mission was tough for Alegria, but the reward was worth the effort.

“Taking classes while working takes prioritizing and balancing,” said Alegria. “A Sailor will realize that time for school does exist once a happy median between work, family and school is established.”

Alegria also believes any Sailor can make it work whether on sea or shore duty.

“Timing is also helpful since shore duty gave me immense opportunities for school,” said Alegria. “However, that is not to say it is not possible on sea duty. I remember taking a biology exam at a computer lab in Iraq. You can make it work.”

Alegria always advises Sailors to take advantage of the opportunities as soon as they become available.

“I would implore Sailors to start school as soon as they are eligible,” said Alegria. “Do not procrastinate since the future is impossible to predict. Take advantage of the free money the Navy gives you to progress your mind.”