Jim Herdt ’92 M.B.A. knows the value of higher education, and if he gets his way, every enlisted warrior will leave the military armed with a college degree. “The military serving today is filled with remarkable men and women, and with a diploma, their future employment opportunities will be unlimited.”
Herdt has first-hand knowledge of the doors that open with a college education. In 1998, he was appointed as the ninth Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. For those unfamiliar with military titles, that means Herdt was the highest-ranking enlisted member of the U.S. Navy. Commonly known as MCPON (pronounced MIK-PON), the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy addresses all issues of enlisted personnel and their families, and reports directly to the top leadership of both the Navy and the U.S. government.
“My job was to take the pulse of the fleet and know the issues affecting the sailors,” said Herdt. “I then worked to address those issues through effecting policy changes.”
In his four years as MCPON, Herdt saw many challenges, including the intense pressure brought on by the tragedy of 9-11, but one mission endured: educating the enlisted force. Members of the noncommissioned
military are a truly unique group, he said. “Veterans from today’s military possess all the attributes employers need: discipline, loyalty, innovation, teamwork, leadership and commitment. Add a college degree to that, and the possibilities are endless.”
Herdt enlisted in the Navy in 1966, at a time when few enlisted sailors sought a higher-ed degree. A quarter-century later, he received his M.B.A. with a specialization in Human Resources from Florida Tech’s Orlando campus. His accolades accumulated in the interim are too many to enumerate here, but some of the highlights include becoming “triple warfare qualified,” which means he is authorized to wear three different warfare breast insignias: the Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist, Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist and Enlisted Submarine Warfare Specialist.
It’s not hard to see the positive impact education has had on Herdt’s success, and he wants all enlisted military members and their families to feel that same passion. “My tenure at FIT helped me so much. It was incredibly hard work, it took a lot of time, but it was certainly worth it.”
Since leaving the military, Herdt has been involved in several consulting ventures, but one that is close to his heart is Pinnacle Five, which he started in 2007 along with four of his peers who held the highest-ranking enlisted positions in the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard. This powerful team has devoted themselves to both educating the enlisted soldiers and helping employers understand how valuable veterans can be to their workforce.
While serving as the MCPON, Herdt led the charge to encourage more enlisted personnel to pursue their college degree by removing some of the red-tape and making it easier to get credit for work experience. “Every military job should have a career path that includes a college degree,” he said. Herdt hopes Florida Tech will be a leader in this process, and with the university’s latest designation once again as a Military Friendly School—one of the top 20 percent of more than 8,000 schools as determined by G.I. Jobs—the forecast is clear skies and smooth sailing.