by Maj. Gus LaFontaine, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs
Command Sgt. Maj.
Aaron Lester helps coordinate training for Kentucky Army National Guardsmen
from the state’s G3 section. Usually, he is part of the efforts to build
training activities for Kentucky Guardsmen. Recently, he’s been on the other
side by being the recipient of the training. Over the last two years, Lester
went back to school to complete a bachelors degree in leadership. He graduated
“Twenty-two years ago I joined the Kentucky Army
National Guard for college and I’m still here,” Lester said.
Over the last 22 years Lester has progressed through
the enlisted ranks, deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, married,
and now has a daughter and two stepsons.
Lester referenced two of the challenges that came
with going back to school during a later stage in his career.
“It was challenging because the family wanted to go
do things but I’d stay at home and work on class modules or writing
assignments,” said Lester. “Joining the Guard for the education, not achieving
that, and having the determination to go back and complete it was one of the
hardest things about going back to school.”
Lester completed his degree with a fellow Kentucky
National Guardsmen, Command Sgt. Maj. Chad Jones. Jones also obtained his
degree in leadership last week.
Jones discussed the benefit of completing his degree
“It was helpful to have a battle buddy. I’d consult
with Aaron. He’d encourage me,” said Jones. “Just knowing that you can reach
out to someone else and get advice and that they have your back helps you feel
that you can do it.”
Jones is nearing the end of his military career in
the Kentucky Army National Guard. He was asked about his motivation for
returning to school to obtain his bachelors degree.
“Everyone in my family has a college degree. My dad
was an educator. I had a lot of encouragement from my wife. She helped me
realize that education never ends,” said Jones.
He offered advice for anyone seeking to continue
“Talk to the counselors at the school you’d like to
go to. The Kentucky National Guard’s education office can also give good
advice. It might not be college. It might be trade school. College might not be
the path for everyone but trades are included in continuing your education and
Jennifer Miller is the State Education Officer for
the Kentucky National Guard. She discussed how her office can help service
members continue their education.
“We want to help Soldiers succeed and give them the support system needed to succeed on their track. We listen to the Soldier about what it is they’re interested in, what they have a passion about. They are going to be much more successful when they’re passionate about something and they have that support system. We try to do a really good job of staying involved with our Soldiers and mentoring them through the process.”
Lester encouraged Kentucky Guardsmen to complete
their higher education during the beginning of their career.
“It’s much easier if you knock this out when you’re
younger before you get a family. It also opens up opportunities for you. Then
you have the rest of your life and career to focus on what you want to do,”
said Lester. “It opens so many avenues for you to get your education and become
a lifelong learner."
Jones agreed, “The longer you put stuff off, the
harder it gets. Life is hard, life it tough, but it’s tough for everybody.”
However, he offered encouragement for those that
start schooling later like he and Lester.
“Being older has the advantage of being more mature and being able to manage your time better.” said Jones. “I don’t think education has an age. Many people think 18-23 is when you go to college. No, you can be 48 or 58 and go back. Anything to better yourself and give yourself a sense of pride and accomplishment is going to pay dividends in the future.”
The state education office can be reached at email@example.com