NCO Academy leaders join forces to master M.A.O.L. degree
One of the first things that strikes you about Command Sgt. Maj. Jon Helring, Sgt. Maj. Jerry Stegemeier and Master Sgt. Chris Maxwell is their enthusiasm for learning. All three are earning their master’s degrees in organizational leadership (M.A.O.L.) at Brandman University’s campus at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) in Washington state, supporting each other through the program.
“This is a great program,” said Stegemeier. “In fact, we’re taking our next class together.”
Stegemeier, who’s set to retire from the Army next spring, first found out about Brandman’s M.A.O.L. program, and Helring and Maxwell became interested, too. “I was scared to go back to school,” said Helring. “I hadn’t been in class since 2002, and wasn’t familiar with the technology. But now we check in on each other – asking if we did our homework, did our post – and it’s beneficial to have this support.”
They’ve reached out to other students in the same way, expanding their group to as many as seven other Brandman students to keep everyone on track.
The trio’s enthusiasm for learning comes as no surprise. These past and present leaders of the Henry H. Lind NCO Academy at JBLM are charged with developing non-commissioned officers in the U.S. Army as up-and-coming military leaders. Leadership, confidence, and decision-making are just some of the characteristics they teach to these young soldiers. What the leaders are learning in their organizational leadership classes relates directly to their roles at the NCO Academy.
“We actually apply what we talk about in class to our work,” said Maxwell. “In fact, we had a guy here visiting from Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri who is also a Brandman M.A.O.L. graduate, and it gave us a common language for many of the things we already do here.”
The three credit Brandman’s easy enrollment and on boarding of military students for some of their current success, giving kudos to the enrollment coaches, academic coaches and instructors. “The process is almost no fail,” said Helring. “It’s been a wonderful experience, and having someone to check in and ask if we’re set with books, or find out how things are going is so helpful.”
In the future, Stegemeier plans on using his degree to find a management or leadership position in the civilian sector and may even pursue his doctorate. Maxwell will look for a position with the state of Washington in either project management or human resources when he retires about a year from now, while Helring plans to use his degree to further his military career.
As for recommending an advanced degree? The vote is unanimous.
“On and off during the past 20 years, I’ve taken college classes,” said Stegemeier. “I recommend that soldiers take a class every semester because you really do need that continuing education to succeed.”
Maxwell admits that it’s actually “more fun” to go back to school as an older student because “you do more learning.” Graduating with his bachelor’s degree in history in 1995, Maxwell says he wasn’t sure how successful he would be, but being a student “all comes back.”
And having a cohort of like-minded military leaders who support each other in their studies makes a difference, too. “It’s like a sanity check,” said Helring. “I have my battle buddies right here through the courses. It makes our entire organization better.”
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