Education: Give the gift that keeps on giving

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- The holidays are here and people often say, "It is better to give than to receive." I agree whole-heartedly, but this year, give yourself a present...the gift of education. 

Everyone joins the military for different reasons. Education is normally top on that list, somewhere among service to country, job security and travel opportunities. 

In a Letter to Airmen dated April 2006 from the Secretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Michael Wynne said, "We must take the Air Force's basic educational foundation to the next level and be relentless in our continued pursuit to become knowledge-enabled Airmen. All Total Force Airmen have the opportunity to incorporate higher education into their development, through Air Force sponsored degrees, the Community College of the Air Force, or with tuition assistance for civilian institutions." 

That is one thing I love about the Air Force. The leadership from the top down have always stressed the importance of education, training, personal advancement and the importance of learning new skills. 

The Air Force is currently offering active-duty members 100 percent tuition assistance. The work the student has to do is time consuming and more than likely never easy; however, the Air Force hierarchy is pushing us toward furthering our education. 

How can we not step up to the plate and flex our mental muscle? I see physical training just like education. Our leadership allows us time to PT three times a week to stay physically sharp and fit to fight. They also allow us to take, if needed, extra time to pursue a degree to keep us mentally fit as well. Without the backing of our leadership, pursuing a degree just might not be feasible. 

With the inception of the Internet, Airmen can now take classes online from overseas or deployed locations. It has created a way for people around the world to broaden their horizons and pursue their education goals. 

The base education center staff members are continually promoting the Air Education and Training Command's CCAF program, the largest community college in the world and the only one in the Department of Defense. 

I am proud to say I jumped on that CCAF bandwagon and earned my applied associates degree this summer. According to Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Rodney McKinley, the Air Force recently graduated 300,000 Airmen, and in fiscal year 2007, we graduated the largest class ever with nearly 17,500 Airmen earning their CCAF. 

Those CCAF graduates now have the potential, and the opportunity, to participate in the Air University Associate to Baccalaureate Cooperative Program. AU-ABC is a new initiative between the Air Force and civilian higher education institutions to offer baccalaureate degree opportunities to every Air Force enlisted member. 

The program directs Airmen with associate in applied science degrees to a collection of accredited "military friendly" colleges and universities to consider when completing a four-year degree. The old adage is true...knowledge is power. Empower yourself this holiday season with the gift of education in 2008.