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College tests offered for Airmen manning internment camp

CAMP BUCCA, Iraq -- Still wearing body armor, Staff Sgt. Shawn Andrews answers questions on a College Level Examination Program test here.  Sergeant Andrews was one of 74 Airmen of the 586th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron taking advantage of a recent visit to the camp by Staff Sgt. Alan Smith, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing test control officer.  Unit members were able to take tests under either the CLEP or Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support programs.  Sergeant Andrews is currently deployed to the 586th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron here from the 31st Security Forces Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy.   (Courtesy photo)

CAMP BUCCA, Iraq -- Still wearing body armor, Staff Sgt. Shawn Andrews answers questions on a College Level Examination Program test here. Sergeant Andrews was one of 74 Airmen of the 586th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron taking advantage of a recent visit to the camp by Staff Sgt. Alan Smith, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing test control officer. Unit members were able to take tests under either the CLEP or Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support programs. Sergeant Andrews is currently deployed to the 586th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron here from the 31st Security Forces Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (Courtesy photo)

CAMP BUCCA, Iraq (AFPN) -- Armored Humvees roll in and out of here several times a day escorting supply convoys. But they brought a unique passenger and cargo to this remote outpost March 17.

The passenger was Staff Sgt. Alan Smith, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing test control officer. His cargo was a box full of College Level Examination Program and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support test booklets.

The Airmen assigned to this camp are working and living in one of the most austere “bases” within the Iraqi theater. The base is a temporary internment facility for detainees awaiting due process under the new Iraqi government.

Senior Airman Danielle Keene, of the 586th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron here, said just having the tests available was “exciting.” Airman Keene, who is deployed from the 10th Security Forces Squadron at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., took a test for college credit in algebra.

“There isn’t a lot to do here, so being able to take the test was a real positive,” she said.

Staff Sgt. Wayne Griggs, deployed here from the 18th SFS at Kadena Air Base, Japan, echoed Airman Keene’s comment.

“Work is pretty much all we do here, so testing was a nice change of pace and a real boost for morale,” he said.

Sergeant Smith said he was surprised by the level of interest shown by the Airmen here.

“With the long hours these troops work, and considering how difficult it is to move around the camp, I was amazed to have people standing in line and hoping for a no-show just so they could take (a) test.”

He said one Airman arranged for relief at his post and showed up at each of the four sessions wearing body armor and carrying his weapon and helmet.

“People were asking me when I was going to come back so they could plan what tests they were going to take next,” Sergeant Smith said.

“This was my first time testing like this for college credit,” said Senior Airman Alynthia Washington, deployed from the 37th SFS at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

She said she hopes for more notice and better access to preparation materials before the next opportunity to earn additional credits arises.

The idea to provide testing for the Airmen was the unit’s first sergeant, Master Sgt. Sam Hankins, of Lackland’s 37th Communications Squadron. He coordinated the process with Col. Fred Fairhurst, 386th Mission Support Group deputy commander, who made the arrangements with Sergeant Smith.

“I was really impressed," Sergeant Hankins said. "The Airmen were so hungry for something like this -- a way to improve themselves while serving at Bucca.”

More than 200 Airmen and Soldiers signed up initially, Colonel Fairhurst said. As a result of the overwhelming response, he said he looks forward to providing the Airmen here regular testing opportunities in the future.

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