CCAF degree important career milestone

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- I recently attended the Community College of the Air Force graduation and wanted to take a few minutes to relay the importance of reaching such a major milestone in your military careers and lives.

Gaining a CCAF degree is more than a piece of paper; it's a significant accomplishment that reflects the priority you place on education in your life and your journey to continue growing and improving. It's also a return on the investment of your service contributing to the Air Force mission.

Gaining a CCAF degree can provide potential boosts in both financial gains and employment advantages; and, yes, there are incredible studies with statistics and charts available to see exactly what that can mean to you. But every person has a different reason for why gaining a CCAF degree is important.

With so many different reasons possible, I decided to make my own Top 10 list of why a CCAF degree is important to you and the Air Force.

10. You are awesome representatives of Fairchild. We had over 100 graduates this last ceremony. Every enlisted grade from airman to senior master sergeant was represented among the graduates, a strong example of how the CCAF degree is important throughout your entire career. Apprentice through superintendent, attaining this degree defines "Excellence in Action."

9. Your CCAF degree tells me you understand and support our culture. The Air Force has the most highly educated enlisted force in the world, and we do that by recruiting, training, educating, and retaining the best of the best. No other service has an associate's degree program like the Air Force, and that is an indicator of how high we view education as an institution and part of our culture.

8. A CCAF degree prepares you for future leadership position. Our degrees are vocation specific; whether in criminal justice or as an instructor of technology/military science, your degree is making you a better, more professional Airman. With broader technical, specialized knowledge, you're prepared for greater leadership roles.

7. Education inspires others around you. I was always amazed at how infectious education can be in an office or workcenter. It only takes one person showing the desire and dedication to complete a degree to "fire up" a group of Airmen. The pride you have in your accomplishment makes others want to be like you ... and that's a good thing.

6. As a CCAF graduate, you are a better spokesperson for my Air Force. Each of you is a key part of an ongoing public relations campaign to educate the public about our Air Force. You are strategic Airmen with a message to send and a story to tell. When you are home on leave or visiting friends, you represent the Air Force. By attaining a higher education, you enlighten yourself and represent our service better.

5. Completing your CCAF degree shows initiative, as completing your education as a military member is no easy task. Deployments, conflicting family demands, and being the best possible Airman you can be is a full load.

4. Education helps develop critical thinking skills. We want smarter Airmen. We want Airmen who can see a problem and find a creative way to fix it. AFSO21 is all about smart people employing critical thinking.

3. The Air Force has invested in you. Each penny spent on your education comes back to the Air Force and your nation. When an individual goes to Professional Military Education, they incur an active duty service commitment. The Air Force expects something in return for its investment. Your CCAF degree doesn't come with an active-duty service commitment, but it does come with the knowledge that your Air Force cares about you.

2. Education makes you a better citizen. One day we will all take off this uniform and be civilians again. We know this CCAF degree gives you the chance to earn more money, but it also prepares you to contribute to your community. Approximately 40 percent of the population has an associate's degree or higher, so you are already in the upper half of the population of the United States. Throw in your military service, and you are a unique asset to your community and country.

And the number one reason your CCAF degree is important is...

1. You are halfway to your bachelor's degree. The Air Force's newest education program is called ABC - Associates to Bachelor Cooperative Program. Air University has fielded the program that partners with civilian higher education institutions to offer baccalaureate degree opportunities to every Air Force enlisted member.

There are ample opportunities to get your degree at Fairchild. The Air Force pays 100 percent tuition assistance, the Department of Defense administers CLEP and DANTES test free of charge and we have a beautiful education facility location on the base. There is no time like the present to get started.