Classes aboard ship give sailors and Marines a fresh perspective

By Hrvoje Hranjski

Associated Press

ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT – After long hours fixing airframes on F/A-18C Hornets bombing Afghanistan, Marine Cpl. Scott Gordon has just enough energy left to wash the grease off his arms and take his seat in a class now discussing Alexander Hamilton, an American statesman in the 18th century.

The college classes that Gordon and 125 other sailors and Marines are taking aboard the aircraft carrier could not have come at a busier time. But his two-month course on U.S. diplomatic history was oversubscribed when it started at the beginning of November.

“The class has been an eye-opener. I hardly have time for a bowl of cereal, but I know it will put me ahead, whether I stay or leave to go to college,” said Gordon, 25, of Madison, Wis.

Professor Jeff Gardner, one of four Navy-contracted civilian instructors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, does everything he can to make up for the fact that the carrier in the Arabian Sea has no library, no Internet access and no audiovisual gadgets.

Mostly he talks, trying to keep his audience awake and responding during a class that meets from 1 o’clock to 3 o’clock – in the morning.

“If the students are not interested in what the current situation is, it’s because they don’t know what questions to ask. They are very comfortable with the company line,” said Gardner, 44, of Las Cruces, N.M. “If that’s what the government said happened, that’s what happened. If the Taliban are bad, the Taliban are bad.”

But he added, “When they start asking questions, that’s where they do jump in. Then they are awake and they go, ‘Hey, OK, I never thought of it that way before.’ “

Lecturing aboard Navy ships for the last seven years, civilian instructors have been free to tailor their programs without government interference, Gardner said. He is unlikely to be accused of toeing the company line.

“American foreign policy is about self-interest and power, not ethics. It’s good to be selfish,” he told a baffled class. “Why are we interested in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan? Because of oil – not because we like them.”

Master Chief Kenneth Reed, who is in charge of the classes, suggested they expose students to a different perspective and a change from the military atmosphere in which the last thing they are expected to do is question authority.

“Everybody has an opinion and is entitled to an opinion,” he said. “But I don’t think most people are comfortable with speaking their opinion” in the armed forces.

“We get them to think in a different way that’s not the right way to think, but they have experience and exposure to thinking from a different temple,” said Reed, 44, of Fall River, Mass. “Diplomatic history is a class where rules are different from our day-to-day lives.”

There are also classes in math, English, criminal justice, psychology, psychiatry and speech. Depending on what the students are majoring in, students can earn credits for further studies.

For Gardner, who has been jumping from one ship to another for four years, teaching sailors and Marines is a way of giving something back.

“When I was their age, I joined the Navy and I took my first college class aboard the ship,” he said. “I took every class that I could and it was wonderful, and then I went to college and got back and said, ‘I’d be happy to do the same for them.’ “

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

An emergency overdose kit with naloxone located next to an emergency defibrillator at Mountain View student housing at Everett Community College on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
To combat fentanyl, Snohomish County trickles out cash to recovery groups

The latest dispersal, $77,800 in total, is a wafer-thin slice of the state’s $1.1 billion in opioid lawsuit settlements.

Deputy prosecutors Bob Langbehn and Melissa Samp speak during the new trial of Jamel Alexander on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Second trial begins for man accused of stomping Everett woman to death

In 2021, a jury found Jamel Alexander guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Shawna Brune. An appellate court overturned his conviction.

New Jersey company acquires Lynnwood Land Rover dealership

Land Rover Seattle, now Land Rover Lynnwood, has been purchased by Holman, a 100-year-old company.

Dave Calhoun, center, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Jan. 24. (Samuel Corum / Bloomberg)
Boeing fired lobbying firm that helped it navigate 737 Max crashes

Amid congressional hearings on Boeing’s “broken safety culture,” the company has severed ties with one of D.C.’s most powerful firms.

Authorities found King County woman Jane Tang who was missing since March 2 near Heather Lake. (Family photo)
Body of missing woman recovered near Heather Lake

Jane Tang, 61, told family she was going to a state park last month. Search teams found her body weeks later.

Deborah Wade (photo provided by Everett Public Schools)
‘We are heartbroken’: Everett teacher died after driving off Tulalip road

Deborah Wade “saw the world and found beauty in people,” according to her obituary. She was 56.

Snohomish City Hall on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish may sell off old City Hall, water treatment plant, more

That’s because, as soon as 2027, Snohomish City Hall and the police and public works departments could move to a brand-new campus.

Lewis the cat weaves his way through a row of participants during Kitten Yoga at the Everett Animal Shelter on Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Downward cat? At kitten yoga in Everett, it’s all paw-sitive vibes

It wasn’t a stretch for furry felines to distract participants. Some cats left with new families — including a reporter.

FILE - In this Friday, March 31, 2017, file photo, Boeing employees walk the new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner down towards the delivery ramp area at the company's facility in South Carolina after conducting its first test flight at Charleston International Airport in North Charleston, S.C. Federal safety officials aren't ready to give back authority for approving new planes to Boeing when it comes to the large 787 jet, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. The plane has been plagued by production flaws for more than a year.(AP Photo/Mic Smith, File)
Boeing pushes back on Everett whistleblower’s allegations

Two Boeing engineering executives on Monday described in detail how panels are fitted together, particularly on the 787 Dreamliner.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.