High-flying flags come around the world and back

The American and Columbia College flags flew proudly together in Iraq.
Columbia College graduate U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Cortez Pree will present Dr. Gerald Brouder, college president, with a U.S. flag and a Columbia College flag that flew over Pree's military installation during his recent tour of duty in Iraq. The ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. Thursday, May 22 at Bass Commons on the Columbia College campus. Newly commissioned Army 2nd Lt. Shawn Sharkey and U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Bobby Fowler, representing the Columbia College’s ROTC programs, will form the detail to raise the flags.

The event also commemorates the nearly four decades that Columbia College has served military members and their families. In 1970, the college began offering classes tailored to men and women in the military. The military student population has since blossomed to one in four of the college's nearly 25,000 students worldwide; 17 of the college's 34 nationwide campuses are located on military installations.

With the Online Campus, students can even earn their degrees from a war zone. Army Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Wise, who is working toward his bachelor's degree in business administration, is doing exactly that as he completes his current tour of duty in the Middle East. Wise faces more than stressful exams and required readings — he faces enemy fire. "While in the middle of a particularly difficult exam, we came under attack by enemy indirect fire, with the attack alarm going off and the rockets impacting around us," he said. "The correct thing to do would have been to run to the bunker for cover, but I persevered through the test — and I didn't do too bad!"

Wise also said that unreliable Internet connectivity can be a problem in Iraq, but that challenges are not excuses. "The faculty and staff have been wonderful by remaining flexible," he said. "They haven't cut me any slack, but neither are they blind to my situation."

For 21 years, Wise has served in the Army and hopes to work for the military after retirement. He recommends the college to his comrades because of his positive experiences. "Columbia College is a good choice because no matter where you go, it's there for you. If you deploy, you can still keep up your studies," he said.