Commentary

July 18, 2013

Education – it’s free, take advantage of it

Commentary by 1st Lt. Gregory Thomas
309th Aircraft Maintenance Unit

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — One benefit we have as military members is the opportunity for a free education. Surprisingly, many individuals do not take advantage of this and go their entire careers without ever stopping by the education center. This is extremely common, but hopefully this article will provide some resources to those thinking about pursuing educational goals.

The right time for Airmen to begin is in the first term of serving. The first priority should always be to knock out the career development courses in order to understand the job. Once the 5-level is obtained, Airmen are authorized to obtain a Community College of the Air Force degree. Those days in tech school actually accounted for college credit, so Airmen already have a head start. Most career field tech schools account for all but five classes. By taking one eight-week course at a time, Airmen can earn an accredited associate degree in less than a year.

Many colleges offer self-paced online courses, making each class extremely flexible and obtainable by anyone, regardless of their specialty. As you finish your CCAF, you can then look into obtaining a bachelor’s degree. If you already have a CCAF or want to plan toward what you are going to do once you get one, look on the Air Force Virtual Education Center website and check out the ABC program. This program builds on a CCAF degree and allows for you to knock out your bachelor’s in 60 semester hours.

For NCOs looking to get their education, it’s harder now that they are in the role of a supervisor. Not only is job knowledge important, but they also have Airmen to watch over, mentor and groom to be future leaders. That should not be an excuse. Even taking one class at a time will make progress. To be successful, Airmen should sit down with a mentor and establish accountability.

Senior NCOs need to complete course 14 and CCAF in many career paths. Making senior master sergeant and chief are available only to those who have completed education requirements. Taking care of this now will only benefit a member later on.

This forum has a pattern, and now I speak to our senior NCOs.

I urge you to consider the benefits of being that mentor to our junior enlisted and constantly reinforce to them the importance of education. I urge you to not only inspire subordinates to see the importance of education, but get them excited about what they can accomplish. By now as a senior NCO, you do not need a lieutenant to tell you that your course 14 and CCAF should have been done long ago. However, if it is not, it is never too late to start.

The military is evolving, and education is more important than ever. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are established while going to college and pursuing an academic degree will only make our Air Force better. If you are thinking of “pushing the button” on retirement, consider this alarming fact from recent attendees of the job fair held on base. The majority of companies appreciate the experience gained in the military, however management positions on the outside require accredited degrees even beyond the CCAF. By getting a degree you are not only taking advantage of a free resource offered to you, but are gaining valuable knowledge that will benefit the Air Force now, and will give you a better job when you decide to start a second career.

I close with one last thought. It is your responsibility to pursue an education. It is not your supervisor’s or anyone else’s. If you are unsure where to start, contact the education center or send me an email. There are an endless number of possibilities when discussing what you can do. Currently Air Force Tuition Assistance covers $4,500 every year to cover classroom expenses. This money can be used to pursue certificates, associate, bachelor’s and even master’s degrees.




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(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Grant)

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