Duty. Honor. Education.
Getting a college degree was James Gradyâ€™s top priority until he witnessed a suicide bomber self-destruct from some 200 yards away. After that, â€œI put my education on hold,â€ says Grady, 40, a National Guardsman who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. He found that taking care of his soldiers â€œwas more important then. I was the first sergeant of the medical company in Kabul. Our unit treated 18 personnel due to the attack. After the bombing, things got so busy that I knew I couldnâ€™t devote enough time to my studies.â€
His break from school didnâ€™t last long. Once stateside, Grady, then a master sergeant, hit the books and earned his degree in organizational management last April. A year later, his education literally paid off when he received a promotion to logistics sergeant major of the Georgia Army National Guard, achieving the highest enlisted rank he can hold. Sgt. Maj. Grady received more than a change in status with the promotion: His annual pay jumped from $64,290 to $89,000.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t have received the promotion without my degree,â€ says Grady. â€œOnce you reach a certain level in the military, promotions are very competitive. You receive points for different accomplishments. The points I received for my degree, along with points for military education, made the difference between first and second place for the position of sergeant major.â€
Gradyâ€™s journey to the logistics apex of the Georgia Army National Guardâ€™s enlisted ranks began more than 20 years ago, when he graduated from high school and enlisted in the Army. For nearly a decade Grady was in the â€œactive Army,â€ as he puts it, rising steadily from an E-1 (private, earning less than $12,000) to an E-6 (staff sergeant, earning around $40,000). â€œAlong the way,â€ says Grady, â€œI picked up a certain amount of education. Every military base I went to had a college where I would take courses. There were Army courses I took that related to my military responsibilities. However, because I wasnâ€™t focused on one area of study, those credits didnâ€™t always transfer.â€
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