Commentary

November 30, 2012

One Team Edwards member’s educational journey

Tags:
Capt. Robby Gallegos
31st Test and Evaluation Squadron


In February 2000, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at the young age of 19.

Unlike many of our young troops today, I entered with no post high school education, not to mention I was married with a son on the way. I had enlistment goals of learning a trade and technical training to include a college education. A college degree would be a milestone in my family. Nobody before me had achieved this accomplishment.

The job I entered into was an Aircraft Armament Systems Specialist or better known as a “load toad” or “weapons loader.” In the beginning, life was very demanding. I was trying to juggle a new family, adjust to a strange new environment (the military), and those dreaded Career Development Courses. The thought of off-duty education was the last thing on my mind not to mention off-duty education in conjunction with CDCs was not permitted. As time went on, the job became more demanding. This was during the time of September 11th, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Noble Eagle. I was constantly TDY and working long hours. Four years went by in a heartbeat and I haven’t taken a single step towards a college education.

It wasn’t until 2004 when I was selected to work at the elite Weapons Standardization Section. Still a demanding job, but the duty hours were a little more predictable and stable. At this point, this is when Staff Sgt. Dale King became my immediate supervisor. One of the best supervisors I have had in my 13-year career. He did what was expected of our NCOs; he was my mentor, leader and motivator. During our performance feedback session he told me then what was expected of me, he stressed concern for my future growth and personal achievement. This was the first time someone sat me down and discussed off-duty education. It wasn’t about building up fodder to win quarterly or annual awards, it was about me. To this day I still remember the words he used, “Don’t wait, “take advantage of your time now.” Anybody who has been in the Air Force for a good amount of years knows he was speaking wisdom. Throughout the years, with increased rank and responsibility, comes a dramatic decrease in personal time, especially when working at a fighter aircraft base on the flight-line. King took the time to inform me where to go, how to enroll and even what degree to pursue. As a staff sergeant, I enrolled in my first class through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Extended Campus. Motivation and inspiration wasn’t hard to get, Staff Sgt. King took classes with me. So my educational journey began. It wasn’t long until I was knocking classes out and along the way there was King asking, “What class is next?” After every term, he always came back to me and told me what was coming up and asking continuously, “Have you registered?” The motivation was so profound, at one point during that time, nearly all personnel in the section were pursuing off-duty education.

When I PCS’d in 2006 to Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, I was only one class away from my Community College of the Air Force degree and about six from my bachelors degree. Again, with the transition to a new base, a new home, and new people, my educational motivation decreased. I was very fortunate to have a fellow peer from my last duty station PCS to Elmendorf with me. He had motivation to finish his bachelors degree and go to Officer Training School. In some sort of way he was my “competition” to finish my degree first. Even though he ultimately finished before me, he kept me inspired to finish mine.

Officer Training School was the last thought on my mind during my eight years as an enlisted man, but I always had the determination to lead and guide. I wanted to be involved in decision making processes and make stuff happen. Looking back at the situation, there were many variables which ultimately inspired me to submit a package to OTS, but without the educational foundation, it couldn’t happen. In 2007 I was selected for OTS, completed my bachelors (Suma Cum Lade) and my CCAF degree (Pitsenbarger award).

Despite having completed my educational goals and now a United States Air Force Officer, the educational journey surely didn’t end. Once again with strong supervision and mentorship I was again pushed to pursue my higher level education in the form of a masters degree. With the strong foundation implanted by Staff Sgt. King years back, I didn’t need much inspiration to pursue a masters. Despite the demanding duty as an officer, I did what I had to do and worked with the little time I had and got it done. There are times I had to take pauses for Professional Military Education, TDYs and training, but I picked right up. All that remains is a thesis that I’m working on now.

Looking back at my educational journey and my Air Force career, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the strong mentors, supervisors and peers. If there wasn’t a Staff Sgt. King in my journey (now Senior Master Sgt. King), I can’t imagine where I would be today. Would I have a bachelorís degree? A CCAF degree? Sometimes all it takes is some involvement in your troop’s lives. It could make a significant difference.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Challenge yourself: Never give up, never quit

I once read that newly created cells in our bodies do one of two things: they either begin to decay or they become more vital. These cells choose their path based on what we demand of them. If we are sedentary, our brains signal our cells to decay; but if we exercise, our cells get...
 
 

Gaining Altitude — Growth Opportunities for the Week

Through our character – an opportunity to reflect on important issues in our community Have you ever tried to change your character?  It’s easier to change a behavior, like drinking less soda, than to change a character trait, like using sarcasm to respond to others. Why is it so difficult? One author puts it this...
 
 

Never underestimate your impact

Every day I visit our great Airmen and every day I come across more than one that underestimates their impact to the mission. There’s the one-stripe maintainer, “just repaneling an aircraft,” for the next day’s flight, or the young personalist, “just issuing another identification card,” or the defender, “just guarding the gate.” The list could...
 

 

‘We’re all in this together’ — A senior NCO’s five constants

Service in the Air Force today means different things for different people. Depending on your unique circumstances, such as family dynamics, job or upbringing, how you navigate through those dynamics can have a significant impact on your time serving and significantly help you prepare for the day you no longer will wear the uniform, whether...
 
 

Gaining Altitude — Growth Opportunities for the Week

Through our character – an opportunity to reflect on important issues in our community Facebook and Twitter allow us to communicate whatever we want, whenever we want.  We tend to respond to any issue that frustrates us and tugs at our emotional heart strings. One thing that our posts and blogs typically lack is civility....
 
 

Separated but not alone

As the dawn broke out over the mountains, I woke up to the sun peeping through my window. Once I got up I went straight to the kitchen to make my family breakfast yet in the back of my mind, all I could think about was, “how am I going to manage taking care of...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>