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Adm. Mullen Promotes Community Colleges at President's Summit

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Oct. 1, 2010: Adm. Mike Mullen speaks during a town hall meeting at the University of Arizona's Centennial Hall. (AP)

An unexpected sight at President Obama's community college summit on Tuesday -- Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, co-moderating the afternoon panel. 

Mullen, more often envisioned in military strategy sessions than educational forums, focused much of the discussion on how to create smoother transitions for combat veterans becoming college students -- a transition that Mullen's aide said is more difficult because of veterans' advanced age, maturity, wounds and stress.

"We've got to get this right, and I don't think we spend enough time on it. How do we work together, across our various organizations, to get more help on more campuses for these vets? I'm convinced they really want the education," Mullen said. 

The chairman, whose wife is a graduate of Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland, felt strongly about participating in the summit, Mullen spokesman Capt. John Kirby told Fox News, because he knows how powerful the lure of higher education is for our troops, veterans and families.

More than 650,000 military personnel and family members are currently enrolled in voluntary education programs, more than half of them enrolled in post-secondary education, Kirby said, adding that most of the 270,000 students who used the GI bill in fiscal year 2009 attended community colleges. 

Obama announced Tuesday that he wants to graduate an additional 5 million graduates from community colleges over the next 10 years. Some critics have wondered whether the $2 billion investment is a waste of time since only 25 percent of community college students get an associate's degree or transfer to four-year institutions whereas 58 percent of students at four year schools complete their studies. 

Tuesday's summit was hosted by Vice President Biden's wife, Jill Biden, who is a professor at Northern Virginia Community College.

Fox News' Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.