When Chief Warrant Officer Eric Metcalf receives his master’s of wildlife science degree and certificate in military land sustainability at Texas A&M University this month, he will be combining his experience in the military with his love of wildlife and natural resource management.
Metcalf, a pilot with the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Hood, is the first Texas A&M graduate student to earn the certificate in military land sustainability. The certification is offered jointly through A&M’s department of ecosystem science and management and its department of wildlife and fisheries sciences.
Dr. Roel Lopez, interim director of the A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and program coordinator, said the flexible, distance learning graduate program offers coursework and research experiences for current and future natural resource professionals interested in the management of military lands.
“The certificate program and associated graduate degrees employ full use of cyber-learning strategies to afford the greatest flexibility to students, allowing them to pursue a graduate degree without having to be physically located on campus,” Lopez said.
“Eric is the type of person we had in mind when we set up the certificate program,” he said. “He was able to continue his military service while completing the program and combine his knowledge and interest in the military and natural resources.”
Metcalf, who is a Tillman Military Scholar, said he was able to complete all but one seminar and an optional one-week long fieldwork course through the program’s online portal. The Tillman scholarship is named after Pat Tillman, a former National Football League player who left the league to join the military. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.
Lopez said the overall goal of this professional degree is to equip students with knowledge and skills for managing relationships among ecology, economics, policy and conflict resolution, and understanding how these factors influence natural resource conservation and management on military lands.
Metcalf said he is already using his knowledge gained through the certificate program and his degree while serving on Fort Hood’s seven-member Hunting and Fishing Advisory Council.
“When issues come up during council meetings, I am able to correlate what I learned and how it might affect training and hunting or natural resources management on base,” he said. “A lot of it went hand-in-hand. It was really neat.”
The veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn said the program is an excellent opportunity for a military person who is interested in not only military tactics and strategies but “what our tactics and strategies do for the environment and how we can mitigate any issues that might arise.”
“I would recommend the program to anyone,” he said.
The graduate certificate requires 15 credit hours of academic work, all of which are delivered via distance education, Lopez said. Nine of the 15 credit hours are required courses from the military certificate and six are elective credits that may be applied toward the degree from a large list of ecosystem sciences and management or wildlife and fisheries sciences courses.
As for Metcalf, he plans to use his degree and certificate to transition from military life into civilian life and land a job as a game warden when he retires in September 2014 after 25 years of service in the military.