Commentary

September 7, 2012

My educational journey: Education isn’t my thing!

Master Sgt. Joseph Carello
Eglin AFB, Fla.

I left college in 1992 for multiple reasons, but mainly because of money; I was the only person in class that could not purchase the required books and equipment.
I came to the conclusion that education just wasn’t my thing, so I decided to enlist in the Air Force in April of the same year. I was looking for a steady paycheck, a trained skill and some traveling.

I got through basic training and went on my merry way to Keesler AFB, Miss., for technical training. I thought it would be a lot of hands-on work, but I was shocked the first day of electronic concepts when we reported to a classroom and the only equipment was desks, chairs, blackboards and manuals.

I thought I was going to “fail out” and drive the school bus around base for the rest of my Air Force career! I worked hard and heard about all of the electronics classes that were Community College of the Air Force certified, but since I didn’t really care about education, I didn’t pay it any attention.

Somehow I passed all my classes and graduated as a 3-level Ground Radio Communications, what they now call an Apprentice. I thought it was awesome: “I am finished with school and training! Now I can finally get to work.”

I arrived at Grand Forks AFB, N.D., in the frigid winter of January 1993.

During in-processing, I again heard about CCAF credits earned at tech school. I was surprised to learn how many I had already earned.

Base education center personnel told me about CLEP tests and how I could earn college credit without going to class. Most important, they were free! Although education wasn’t my thing, I thought I would give it a shot. I took the General Math CLEP and passed – I earned six college credits and didn’t have to step into a classroom to do it! This was the start of my educational journey, pursuing my CCAF.

In the four bases that followed, I took CLEP and DANTES tests to earn my CCAF degree. I attended ALS for my management credit and took a Speech class to complete my general education requirements. I earned my Electronic Systems Technology CCAF degree in 2002.

I attempted to go back to college again in the spring of 2003 to earn my bachelor’s degree.

Unfortunately, the tempo ramped up even higher with the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. I deployed soon after and had to put off education, but it really still wasn’t my thing.

After my deployment, I enrolled in classes again. To my surprise, I did pretty well but was still wary because, again, education wasn’t my thing. After another deployment, I received orders to Keesler AFB to become an instructor in my field. I thought to myself, “Great, back in the classroom again!”

My third day there, in early August 2006, my supervisor sat me down and asked about my education goals. He asked if I wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree. I said yes even though in the back of my head I was thinking, “Dude, education isn’t my thing!”

However, I didn’t want to offend my new supervisor so I heard him out. He talked about an online program, which I wasn’t too sure about, and how I would only have to take 10 classes to earn a bachelor’s degree. My thought was “Only 10 classes … I’m game!”

He suggested I register immediately and get started. I hemmed and hawed but he was determined, so I did it. Four years later, taking one class at a time and one break for NCO Academy, I earned my bachelor’s degree in the spring of 2010. I also earned another CCAF degree while pursuing my bachelor’s – Instructor of Technology and Military Science.

I told my wife that my next step was a master’s degree. She rolled her eyes and asked why.

I explained what I wanted to accomplish and she mumbled something about how for a person to keep saying education isn’t their thing, there seemed to be an awful lot of educating going on! That was when it dawned on me that since my enlistment in the U.S. Air Force back in 1992, I have been getting educated for one thing or another. I have been in more classrooms, whether being instructed or instructing others, than a four-year college student. The system is geared around constant academic processes: tech school and CDCs, upgrade training and PME, and other additional duty certifications.

Now that I am in my master’s degree program my attitude has changed for the better. I am an advocate for education. I was a unit mentor for the Year of the CCAF, and now I am involved in the Year of Continuing Education as one of four Secretaries of Education for the largest training wing in the U.S. Air Force.

My crowning accomplishment, though, is convincing my wife to go to college, and it will be one of the proudest moments of my life to see her walk across the stage and receive her bachelor’s degree because she too thought education wasn’t her thing!




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