Business Classes from the Battlefield
Cal State East Bay student Sgt. Ricardo Garcia finishing degree while on active duty
In a remote military base in Kuwait, United States Air Force Technical Sgt. Ricardo Garcia is busy laboring in a desert where temperatures commonly reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months.
There, he manages and assists loading and unloading an average of 15 inbound and outbound cargo military aircraft 12 hours a day, six days a week. From noon to midnight, he lifts heavy shipments of food, medical supplies, vehicles, weapons, ammunition and baggage into airplanes destined for U.S. soldiers in “global hot spots” such as Syria and Afghanistan. The grueling work leaves him exhausted and with little time to do anything else.
“It’s a tough job, but this is what I do,” Garcia said. “I’m away from my family during the holidays too, and it’s part of the compromise of my job.”
Prioritizing a Dream
Garcia is allowed one day off work every week. With only a small amount of free time available, his remaining energy is spent working on homework and studying for tests. Since 2015, Garcia has been working on a business degree through Cal State East Bay’s Online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) program. The program’s fully-online format has provided him with the flexibility to concentrate on school at his own pace despite his taxing and overseas job.
“In my job I have to prioritize, and [the BSBA] program works with my schedule,” Garcia said. “I’ve been able to do it because I set time aside for my school work.”
The BSBA is a two-year online program offering degree concentrations in finance, general management, information technology management, and operations and supply chain management. Garcia is focusing on the supply chain management option with a minor in logistics management.
Along with its flexibility, Garcia said the BSBA program has also helped him with resume writing, provided interview tips and offers clear communication and assistance from coordinators.
“There are times when I’ve had to fill out paperwork or turn in important documents and I’m being helped the whole time,” said Garcia. “[Cal State East Bay] does a good job at working with active military and veterans.”
At 48-years-old, Garcia said earning a college degree has been a dream of his for years. He joined the Marines in 1990 after graduating high school in South San Francisco. While in boot camp he was unaware of the ongoing Gulf War and was surprised when he was told he would have to fight in the Middle East. After training in the Mojave Desert, then-19-year-old Garcia was deployed to Bahrain in early 1991 to engage in combat during Desert Storm.
After serving eight years in the Marines, Garcia took time off to earn his associate degree and start a family.
Five years ago, Garcia decided to become an airman in the USAF and has consistently excelled in rank. When he was promoted to his current military management position, his colleagues encouraged him to go back to school.
“My boss told me that once I earn my degree nobody can take it away,” Garcia said. “Having this degree gives me an advantage and will help me with my responsibilities in management.”
It wasn’t easy for Garcia to bounce back into studying. He said he found it challenging at first when he entered the degree program after several years of not attending school.
“Going back to college, especially when everything is online, was like learning a foreign language,” Garcia said. “I remember telling myself, ‘Oh my God, how am I going to get through this?’, but I didn’t let anything stop me and I just kept trying my best.”
A New Title
Today, Garcia only has one class left to graduate. When he’s not stationed overseas, he is a senior supervisor at a technology supply company in Livermore. He lives in Danville with his wife and three daughters, the eldest a college student completing her last school year in Arizona. Garcia said he looks forward to coming back to the Bay Area in the spring of next year to receive his diploma around the same time as his daughter.
“Most of my family members didn’t graduate college, and I want to show my family they can be proud of me,” Garcia said. “I’m very happy to be getting my degree, even at my age. It’s better late than never.”
Being in the BSBA program has motivated Garcia to further his education and possibly earn a master’s degree, he said. He also encourages others in and outside the military to join the BSBA program.
“I tell other people about this online program because this is more than just a business degree to me,” Garcia said. “In the military you have to earn your titles and getting my bachelor’s is just as important as a title. It’s an accomplishment. It’s a milestone.”