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Staff Sgt. Thomas Barnhart, of the 302nd Cargo Transfer Company, tutors students in English composition.
Staff Sgt. Thomas Barnhart, of the 302nd Cargo Transfer Company, tutors students in English composition. (Jessica Inigo / S&S)

LSA ANACONDA, Iraq — Get smart in Iraq — prove it in Kuwait.

A fledgling education service center on Anaconda is taking the first steps to become an official education center for military troops. Currently, the center can set up troops with distance learning courses from almost all major colleges, act as a proctor for school exams, tutor students on general studies and set up appointments for testing at the nearest official education center in Camp Doha, Kuwait.

The majority of the traffic is from troops trying to improve their general/technical score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, the initial exam servicemembers take to measure what jobs are open to them when joining the service. With a higher GT score, troops get more options when re-enlisting or can get a different military job.

Spc. Steven Nalls, of the 4th Corps Material Management Center out of Fort Hood, Texas, is using the education center to get a better GT score.

“I’m hoping to become a medic,” he said. “I’m learning more English composition and math, which will hopefully boost my GT score.”

Nalls, like others being tutored at the center, then will fly to Camp Doha for testing. The process usually takes fewer than two days and is command approved.

The center, run by the Installation Management Agency, Europe, is the first of its kind in Iraq and is aimed at continuing education for all deployed servicemembers, according to Maj. Kristi Hilton, educational officer in charge of LSA Anaconda.

Three junior 3rd Corps Support Command soldiers started Anaconda’s center, which was nothing more than a tent with plywood floors and plastic chairs, last summer. Now, to meet IMA-Europe standards, the center is located in a building on Anaconda that has a computer lab, classroom, office and testing room.

No testing will be done for college credit exams, such as the College Level Examination Program, until it becomes an official education center, though some universities allow the center to name a proctor to administer their tests for them, Hilton said.

It might take a while before testing comes to the Anaconda center, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Elder, COSCOM and camp sergeant major. He said the center is following the pace of the theater and will move forward only when all major deployed commands agree an official center can open in Iraq.

“Right now, we need to keep soldiers focused on the mission — more on stabilizing the country first and not worrying about homework assignments,” Elder said. “There will come a point when there’s stabilization. At that point in time, there will be a request for more education services.”

Elder said the center also is looking to have colleges available in Iraq, like at other military installations, when the time is right.

Until then, troops from all services, both active duty and Reserve, can use the unofficial education center on Anaconda.

Spc. Erika Grubaugh, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation Regiment, a National Guard unit out of Peoria, Ill., said she hopes to get a better GT score to become an officer, as well as take some classes in the CLEP to get better credentials as a third-grade teacher.

“As an educator, this is great. I never stop learning,” she said.

Hilton said more unofficial education centers will spring up across Iraq to keep all troops learning.

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