Winn Army Community Hospital recently did its part to help soldiers prepare for life after the Army.
Education Chief Cheryl Robinson said the second annual Education Fair featured schools from the region and as far away as California. She said the fair, held May 1 in the hospital’s Patriot Room, allowed Winn staff members and members of the Fort Stewart community to learn about education resources available to them for personal and professional development.
“We want folks to come through here (today) and see what’s out there and to just further their education,” Robinson said. “That’s what this fair is all about, to let people know about the resources that are out there and to (encourage them to) take advantage of those resources.”
Col. Robin Adams-Massenburg, deputy commander of nursing, said many soldiers are not planning to make a career of Army, and even those who do will one day leave. They need to further their education to prepare for that day, she said.
“A lot of our soldiers are looking for life after the Army,” Adams-Massenburg said. “Some time we all must retire. We want to make sure our soldiers have had the opportunity so when they transition from active duty to civilian life, they have marketable skills.”
She said soldiers leaving the Army without retiring are more mature and have a better idea what they want to do than students who are just finishing high school or college. Most soldiers preparing to retire have an even better idea what their next career will be, and they’re preparing for that career while still in service.
“They already know what they want to do,” she said. “When they leave the service, especially (soldiers) here at (Winn), they’ve had an opportunity to become skilled in their particular area of interest, and they’ve had to opportunity to see what else the medical field has to offer.”
She said Winn soldiers have had the opportunity to work alongside other technicians, physicians, nurses and physician’s assistants. She said her staff sent out a large number of invitation emails to colleges and universities in the region who offer a variety of medical programs for all levels, from associate’s to undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Staff Sgt. Jessica Prankienas, a licensed practical nurse at Winn, came to the education fair to talk with school representatives about programs that would complement the associate degree in business she recently completed.
“(I’m here) to get information about a bachelor’s degree in business administration,” Prankienas said. “The education chief came to me and said, ‘You need to go back to class.’ I’ve completed my associate’s degree, and she sounded like a mom who keeps pushing me to do better. She pushes all of our soldiers to do better.
“(Having the colleges all in one place) makes it a lot easier. … I’m looking for something that’s going to work for me and my family when I go back to school. I have a 7-week-old daughter, so I (need to be able to) sit at home and do my schoolwork … and be able to take care of my family. … I’ve found three colleges here I’m going to take a look at. … It’s what’s going to make me marketable when I’m done with this career. I have 10 years left.”
Prankienas said the Army helped pay for her coursework toward her associate degree, which she completed in only eight months. She intends to use tuition-assistance programs to pay for a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s degree.