Former logistics specialist credits Saint Leo MBA degree with helping him earn a highly competitive commission.
Jason Kouche has served in the U.S. Navy for six years and during that time he has had two goals: to earn an MBA degree and to receive an officer commission.
For three consecutive years, the petty officer first class, a logistics specialist, applied for supply corps commissioning programs. And three years in a row he was denied due to limited space availability.
But Jason persevered.
He achieved his first goal completing his online MBA degree program at Saint Leo University last year. He then applied for a commission a fourth time – this time taking a slightly different route and applying for a position as an administrator in health care with the Navy's Medical Service Corps.
And this time, he achieved success. Jason received the commission and was promoted to lieutenant junior grade.
Jason credits earning his MBA from Saint Leo with giving him the edge he needed to earn the highly competitive commission.
On the right track
Jason began his graduate business degree working toward a general MBA degree, but when he learned about the commission opportunities in the Medical Service Corps, he switched to the MBA with a health care management concentration. He believes that the combination of his logistics work experience and the health care management focus of his MBA are a perfect match for his ultimate goal – to work in medical logistics for the Navy's Medical Service Corps.
After receiving his commission, Jason spent five weeks in officer training, and then moved across country from San Diego, Calif., to Beaufort, SC, with his wife and two sons. He is currently serving as a legal officer in the Medical Services Corps, but will be able to choose to specialize in medical logistics—a specialization that will require an additional three-month training.
Balancing naval career, family, and school
Similar to other adult and military students at Saint Leo, Jason made many sacrifices to earn his degree. His family did, as well.
"I'd go into work an hour or hour and half early every morning, and did my homework then. I also did homework during lunch," he says. "At home, my wife was very supportive. If I had to do homework at night, she would make sure the boys (ages 5 and 3) were occupied so I could have the time to do what I needed to do."
Finding the right balance of work, family, and school life also was not easy, but Jason credits the military discipline he has learned with helping him do so. "The work ethic and discipline the military and Navy instills gave me the ability to really work as hard as I could at Saint Leo."
Continuing coursework while deployed
While pursuing his degree, Jason deployed on a Western Pacific tour aboard the destroyer the USS Howard. The tour included stops in Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, and South Korea, among other countries.
During his deployment, Jason was able to continue his education due to Saint Leo's Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE), which offers the same online courses, but in an alternative format suitable for the limited internet access he had aboard ship.
"Saint Leo sends you a packet of course material and homework assignments. It's self-paced. When the deployment is over, you put everything back in the packet, send it back, and they grade it," Jason says.
"Having the ability to continue classes with limited internet access on the ship, where we were operational a lot, was great. During the deployment I could do NCPACE, and when I returned home, I went back to doing my classes online. It's the same credits," he adds.
Navy benefits and future plans
Jason used the military's Tuition Assistance as well as the GI Bill to cover the cost of his MBA program. "The hardest part was figuring out how to set it up, but once I was in contact with Saint Leo's VA certifying official, it was easy. She was very helpful and responded quickly," he says.
The Saint Leo VA certifying official helped Jason make sure his tuition dollars came through from the military each term, and he often was in contact with her after he enrolled for classes so she knew what to look out for.
Having attained his goals of earning an MBA and achieving an officer commission, Jason now plans to stay in the Navy until he earns a full retirement.
"Having a family, being on active duty, and the balancing act of prioritizing everything to make sure every aspect of my life that I was responsible for was getting the proper attention was not easy," says Jason, but it was well worth the effort.
"Having an MBA really sets you apart from your peers. It helped me achieve my dream job."
Image credits: Courtesy Jason Kouche