Think your roommate’s
stereo is distracting when you’re studying for tomorrow’s
quiz? Try concentrating on grammar and sentence structure,
or the fine points of behavioral science with the sound of
M-16s and AK-47s exchanging fire in the background. Or the
occasional mortar or rocket-propelled grenade attack.
Like many other HPU students, Patrick Coble thumbs through
pages of notes, completes homework assignments, and stresses
before exams. He talks with his instructors on a regular basis,
checking to see if he is up-to-date with the course requirements,
getting feedback from the them, and making arrangements to complete
his coursework on time.
As a student in HPU’s Military Campus Programs, Coble takes
advantage of the distance learning lessons made available via
the Internet, WebCT, CD Rom, and other technologies. These come
in handy when you’re taking classes in Iraq.
Coble, a U.S. Marine corporal who serves as a computer administrations
specialist, is wrapping up his associate’s degree in computer
science while deployed with his Kane‘ohe unit (name is
withheld for security reasons). He plans to start his bachelor’s
degree once he returns to Hawai‘i. But first things first.
He’s trying to keep up with his classes and, after all,
there’s a war going on.
My teachers are a great help,” said Coble. “That’s
probably the toughest thing, trying to get my work done on time.
I usually need 30 minutes to an hour for my assignments, but
there are only a few available computers in our outfit, and I
want to be courteous to my fellow marines who are trying to stay
in contact with their families and friends. All of my instructors
seem to understand where I’m at and have helped me adapt
to the circumstances.”
Coble studies must be secondary. The realities of deployment
in a war zone provide an abundance of outside stimuli. Call
it the classroom of ultimate reality, about as far removed
Kane‘ohe as the earth from the moon. Iraq evidently doesn’t
benefit from the trade winds, and the services at Marine Corps
Base Kane‘ohe must seem like the Ritz Carlton compared
to present fare.
For one, it’s hot as hell here,” said Coble. “Sometimes
the shower water is scalding hot, and the chow hall doesn’t
always have the greatest selection. But I can’t complain.
I know a lot of others who sleep in tents or humvee’s and
just eat MREs” (MREs are Meals Ready to Eat , dinner in
a pouch, the military’s version of “cold lunch.”)
Coble and his fellows work seven day weeks, “12 hours on,
12 hours off” in his case. “We sit here knowing that
there are people “on the other side of the wall” who
hate you so much, they’ll kill themselves to kill you and
other coalition forces,” said Coble. “Our base has
had some mortar and rocket attacks,” he added. “It’s
the scariest sound in the world when you hear the whistle of
mortar fire going overhead. But I don’t want to make it
sound worse than it is. A lot of my fellow Marines have it much
harder. I’m not a grunt, not on the front lines getting
shot at. My job is to help those guys do what they do best. My
job is to make sure the computers guys use to make decisions
on the battlefield are working properly. I see the results of
the fighting, and I’m proud to have helped them do what
Coble and countless other service people in the theater have
been impressed when the “home folk,” ordinary Americans,
do a little extra. For instance, when the corporal ordered a
textbook online, “The seller saw I was in Iraq and when
he was packaging the book, he threw in some magazines, and gave
me his e-mail address,” Coble recalled. “We made
contact and the company he works for sent our unit some fans,
hygiene products, and a bunch more new magazines. It was great.
It helps to know the people back home support us.
“When I get back to Hawai‘i,” Coble said, “I want a nice,
quiet life. I look forward to real showers, good food, and the freedom to come
and go when I please. Being with family and friends. Little things like hopping
in the car and going to the mall, catching a movie: thinking about things like
that keeps me going.”