BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — How many of us can truthfully say they don’t have regrets? I’m talking about the times you have asked yourself, what if? What if I had taken those college classes? What if I had worked a little harder toward making rank? What if I had capitalized on an opportunity when it was presented to me? Many times in life do we convince ourselves we’re so busy trying to kill the closest gator to the boat that we aren’t putting forth the effort necessary to accomplish things that have a positive impact on our lives. Far too many times we avoid doing the things that might cost a little time, a little aggravation, and a little hard work in the beginning but pays huge dividends in the end.
We’re all aware of the importance of finishing a Community College of the Air Force, bachelor’s or master’s degree, but how many times have you excused yourself from starting your first class or even going to the education office to get a degree plan drawn up? You’ve probably told yourself, “I just don’t have time to go over there,” or “I’m just so busy with work. I’ll get signed up for classes next month.” I’m sure you know someone who retired after 20 years in the Air Force and the one thing they told you was they regret not making the time to go to school. When I say you need to make the time available to go to school this is key in the equation because it’s too easy to say we don’t have time. I can tell you that when I was an airman 1st class I felt the same way. It wasn’t until I talked with someone in this situation I realized I didn’t want to be like them in 20 years. The simple fact is, if you think you’re too busy as an Airman, NCO or company grade officer to tackle your education, then you’re wrong.
A good example of the importance of accomplishing educational goals is the unit I’m commanding right now. The 9th Munitions Squadron is responsible for training all active duty, guard, and reserve Air Force 7 and 9 level ammo Airmen from 126 bases; that equals 560 students each year. In order to be considered for a position as a member of our cadre, you must have completed your CCAF. Throughout the year we receive calls from extremely sharp, high speed, low-drag NCO’s who want to work here but don’t have their CCAF. Most are turned away asking what if I had only finished my CCAF? As you progress in rank you’ll soon realize the time you have becomes scarcer and not using the time you have now could ultimately impact opportunities in your career.
You should also be aggressively pursuing your professional military education. Whether you’re officer or enlisted, PME often gets put off because we convince ourselves once again, that we’re just too busy. The fact is, many people will use their job or some other excuse for not tackling PME sooner rather than later. Speaking from personal experience as an Airman, NCO, CGO, and now a field grade officer, I can promise you that having your PME finished will vastly improve chances for promotion, assignments, and provide opportunities in all aspects of your life. Believe me when I say, supervisors want to push you for that annual award, put you in for a decoration, and help get a choice assignment for you. The reality for many Airmen is the failure to hold up their end of the bargain leaves them unable to take advantage of the best opportunities possible.
We’ve all seen this happen to someone we know. Or maybe I’m talking about you right now. I have two friends who retired in 2012 and followed completely different paths. One individual didn’t complete his education or participate in anything else to enhance his personal or professional potential. He recently told me that he’s submitted 85 resumes and continues to ask, “What if.” The second individual tackled opportunities head-on and left the Air Force with a master’s degree and had finished all PME equal to his grade. He landed his “dream” job.
Opportunities come in many different forms and whether that’s a college degree or PME. The choices to take advantage of those opportunities will have an impact. Don’t be the Airman who has to ask himself, “What if”.