nelson adames

If I had then what I have now, I would kick down the doors and say, ‘This is why you need to hire me.'

MSgt Nelson Adames


After 13 years serving as infantry in the U.S. Marine Corps, Master Sergeant Nelson Adames made a plan of attack for civilian life.

He knew he couldn’t continue his physically demanding post forever, but as an instructor for other Marines, there was an even more pressing concern: he needed English credits to get to the next instructor rank.

“A majority of the other instructors who I was working with were actually at Ashford or alumni,” said Nelson. “They were saying, ‘Hey, you can do online, they’re five-week courses,’ and they kind of just broke it down.”

Nelson saw his peers starting and stopping as needed to accommodate deployments, but they never gave up. Despite orders that took him from North Carolina to Hawaii to Okinawa to Twentynine Palms, neither did Nelson.

“Being in the field as infantry, you’re never home,” he says. But Nelson found he could fit the coursework in with his schedule. Before long, his education was having an impact on his work.  

“I was able to do well in those classes and take that and become a better instructor, being able to facilitate and articulate to my students,” he said. “The knowledge that I’ve taken away from the classes, the instructors, and the students in the discussion posts has helped me be able to talk to my peers or senior leadership.”

The effects of furthering his education also resonated at home. “When my son would see me doing homework, I told him, ‘Hey son, no pass no play; you don’t get good grades then you don’t get to play sports, it doesn’t matter how good you are.’” For his high-achieving daughter, Nelson says watching him balance his job with a college education and family responsibilities has taught her how to balance priorities.

Just a few classes away from finishing, Nelson suffered a minor heart attack. His professors worked with him while he recovered. But two days after his heart attack, he was turning in assignments. “This is when Marines strive to be their best -- when their back’s against the wall,” he says.

In March 2017, Nelson clinched his bachelor’s in Organizational Management, but he’s not quite ready to give up Marine Corps life. He’s using his degree right where he is and is still looking to stretch himself.

“Once you’ve reached the rank of a sergeant, they look at it like, what is this Marine doing outside? So by continuing your education, you’re marked higher than your peers. When it gets competitive, it can be between you and somebody else who isn’t continuing their education.”

Nelson exudes confidence now, but it wasn’t always that way. Before joining the military he earned an associate’s degree in AutoCAD but kept losing out on jobs. “If I had then what I have now, I would kick down the doors and say, ‘This is why you need to hire me.’”

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