With its major military installations and a long tradition of local military service dating back to the arrival of the U.S. Navy in 1898, Guam is home to thousands of American military veterans.
While many of the present-day vets community grew up here and returned home after years of service, being stationed on the island over the years convinced others to make it a post-retirement home. And war service in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf in recent years has made this a younger and more active group.
But even for those who make a full career of the military, retirement comes relatively early in life, leaving the need to acquire alternate skills and careers to provide for themselves in civilian life.
According to Rodney A. Cruz, the founder and president of the Iraq, Afghanistan and Persian Gulf Veterans of the Pacific group, some 250 student-vets are enrolled at Guam Community College, which has a parallel vet’s group.
A recent event at GCC sought to hook up veterans, young and old, with the range of educational and occupational opportunities available to them. Veterans holding public office—Senators Joe S. San Agustin and Frank Aguon—presented a resolution to the GCC vets club for “promoting higher education and the betterment of our veteran’s community on Guam.” Former Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez, an Air Force veteran, was also on hand.
Retired Army Colonel Dennis Santo Tomas, an advisor to the GCC Student Veterans Association, urged that Guam vets not miss blooming opportunities offered by further education and training.
“GCC is a leader in career and workforce development, providing the highest quality, student centered job training in Micronesia. Just recently, newly appointed Secretary of Education Betsy Devos highlighted the importance of community colleges across the nation because they promote vocational and technical training as their specialty, as a means to lower unemployment and fuel economic growth. Borders will be closed and the new president’s initiative to grow from within—and that’s what we do at GCC. We develop a work force,” Santo Tomas said.
Aside from your traditional college degrees, GCC specializes in apprenticeship programs and certification programs. GCC has certification programs in air conditioning, electrical, plumbing, welding, construction, IT, culinary, supervision and management. “They have all of these certifications that are easier to obtain than your normal, traditional two and four year degrees. So we encourage veterans who are not focused on your normal, traditional four year degrees,” Santo Tomas added.