Meeting a soldier's needs in the field and the virtual classroom
Food, fuel, and parts—as a Tank Platoon Leader, Michael Smith must manage these supplies for the First Infantry Division stationed at Fort Riley, an U.S. Army base near Manhattan, Kansas. While it may seem like a straightforward list, Smith knows there are a thousand little things to consider when dealing with heavy machinery and the people who operate it.
“There is the customer relationship management aspect, and all the maintenance—with a tank, for instance, you’re looking at about a half a gallon to the mile, and you’re refueling every 250 miles,” Smith said. “I need to be able to forecast what we’re going to need and when we’re going to need it for our mission or training to be successful. It is my job to make sure our soldiers’ needs are met.”
Smith enrolled in the Master of Science in Integrated Supply Chain Management program at UW-Platteville to help him refine the skills he needs for his military career. He also knew the school had a reputation for flexible coursework, which is important when he is deployed for weeks or months at a time.
“Thankfully, all the professors and my classmates have been really easy to work with. The discussions and class work that you need to complete each week could be tough sometimes given my schedule, but everyone was great,” Smith said. “There was actually more interaction in the online courses than I thought there would be, which was really good for me. It forces you to talk and really consider the subject.”
Smith continued his studies during a recent nine-month deployment to South Korea for collaborative training exercises. This mission was a hardship deployment, meaning family was not allowed to travel with the division, so Smith decided to increase his course load to fill his free time. He was able to complete two courses a semester while stationed overseas.
While the convenience of online education allows him to study no matter where he is, Smith said the support of his wife, Carlie, as well as his friends, family, and employers has also helped him work towards graduation. He received some additional financial support in the spring of 2016 when he was awarded the Distance Education Alumni Board Scholarship.
“The help means a lot,” Smith said of the scholarship. “Whether I advance within the military or not, education is very important and a master’s puts you one step ahead. Scholarships and education are a way to promote the future.”
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