Continuing and higher education is a fact of live for U.S. Air Force airmen in the 21st century.
To that end, Team Edwards held its annual Community College of the Air Force and Recognition of Higher Degree ceremony in front of the 412th Test Wing headquarters building at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Oct. 14, 2021.
CCAF is the only federal institution that awards degrees exclusively for the enlisted force. It is a fully accredited degree-conferring institution by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, one of the six regional accreditation organizations recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
“I’ll talk to you today, not as Colonel Gordon. But as Dr. Gordon. The one piece of advice that I always got over and over again, was no matter what, you never, ever fail by investing in your own education. I don’t regret a single moment,” said Col. Randel Gordon, the 412th Test Wing Vice Commander.
The graduates are:
CCAF Degree Graduates
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Wilson
Staff Sgt. Jacob Puente
Staff Sgt. Joseph Howells
Staff Sgt. Casey Cantero
Tech. Sgt. Joshua Heinz
Master Sgt. Sean Moore
Staff Sgt. Alan Strawderman
Tech. Sgt. Ladarious Malone
Senior Airman Derrick Parker
Tech. Sgt. Kirk Pettay
Senior Airman Joshua Pierre Arcilla
Staff Sgt. Donald Clark
Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Gurney
Staff Sgt. Kenan Kulasevic
Staff Sgt. Daquanne McDowell
Staff Sgt. Berenice Merino
Staff Sgt. Ciara Love
Staff Sgt. Louis Rivera
Senior Airman Jessica Gardner
The ceremony also recognized nine Airmen for obtain earning advanced degrees from CCAF partner schools:
Bachelor’s Degree Recognition
Master Sgt. Steven Mayo
Staff Sgt. Luciano Cordero
Master Sgt. Mario Beltran
Tech. Sgt. Desy Bennett
Staff Sgt. Airene Thomas Williams
Tech. Sgt. Jessica Scott
Senior Airman Jasmin Rodriguez
Master’s Degree Recognition
Tech. Sgt Christopher Lastrape
Staff Sgt. Mutia Graham
For Senior Airman Jessica Gardner, Public Health Technician, 412thMedical Group, the CCAF graduation is a path to higher education.
Gardner, along with Staff Sgt. Ciara Love, 412thMaintenance Squadron, earned the Air Force Association Pitsenbarger Awards.
The Pitsenbarger Award provides a one-time grant of $500 and a one year complimentary AFA eMembership to selected top Air Force enlisted personnel graduating from the CCAF who plan to pursue a baccalaureate degree. The grants coincide with CCAF graduation ceremonies held each spring and fall.
“This is just a stepping stone for me as of right now, I’m actually working on my bachelor’s in healthcare administration,” she said. “My long-term goal is to be dental orthodontist so I’m just taking baby steps at this time.”
Gardner having a degree will help her career, while also a drive for higher education will improve her military career, and possibly encourage her to stay in military service.
“As of now, that’s how I’m feeling, I’m almost 6 years in; I can hang out for 14 more years,” she said. “It feels good to have the Air Force as a stepping stone, as far as education.”
The guest speaker for the event, Senior Master Sgt. Brian Pettaway, Air Force Test and Evaluation Center, Detachment 5, reminded the graduates of their hard work and lessons learned outside of the classroom. He said that being an Airman, or parent, or friend is a full-time job, and they were able to be those while still being able to attend school.
“You’ve done it, as I have, all while doing other things as a full-time job. What you’ve learned along the way, more than what you’ve learned just for your degrees is how to do all those full-time jobs at the same time, that’s something you can carry forward, regardless of what your degree is,” Pettaway said.
In his closing remarks, Gordon quoted business magnate, Warren Buffett, saying, “The best investment you can make, is an investment in yourself. The more you learn, the more you’ll earn.”