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CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — The Okinawa Navy Mustang Association is awarding free books to two enlisted Navy and Marine Corps servicemembers who either are or will be enrolled in college courses next semester.

The association will pay up to $150 for textbooks for the servicemembers who take top honors in the group’s essay contest, said Lt. Cmdr. Dale Baker, association president. Only enlisted Navy and Marine Corps servicemembers are eligible; those interested must submit a one-page essay on one of three topics chosen by the association. Entry deadline is Nov. 17.

The topics applicants can choose to tackle:

• What would be the result if we had only one combined U.S. military service that included the Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Coast Guard? Would this be a good idea or not, and why? What would it be called? How would it affect base structure and mission?

• What are similarities and differences between the U.S. military involvement in Vietnam during the 1960s and ’70s and our military involvement in Iraq? Do you see similar or different objectives and outcomes?

• Describe your career plan. Where do you want it to take you in five years? Ten years? And 20 years?

“We feel that this is a great idea and it shows the spirit of the association ... to give back to the enlisted,” said Baker, who heads the association. The group is comprised of those who were enlisted servicemembers before becoming commissioned officers. “We want to support our enlisted troops and this is our way of investing in their future.”

Association members will judge the essays; the two best among all three categories will receive the book funds, said Baker.

A recent recipient said he was thankful for the financial help — and also for the food for thought the competition gave him.

“It was fun to write the essay,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Machi McFarland, a corpsman with 3rd Fleet Service Support Group. “It stretches your mind and makes you really think about stuff. It was nice to see that my opinion was viewed as one of the best.”

McFarland is taking general studies courses through the University of Maryland. He wrote his essay on whether it was morally or ethically correct to give rewards for tips and the capture of suspected terrorists.

Baker said the association has been running this program for about a year; so far, about 20 sailors and Marines have applied.

“We want them to be successful no matter what they do, whether it’s to become senior enlisted or officer,” he said. “We just want to help them down the right track.”

For more information, contact Lt. Alan L. Adams at 645-0644, or adamsal@oki10.med.navy.mil. To submit an essay, e-mail: PoncePJ@oki10.med.navy.mil.

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