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Schooling chances help out Airmen

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Joseph Orcutt
  • 349th Maintenance Operations Squadron commander
My beautiful wife asks me, "When do you stop going to school?" I thought about it for a long time before I replied, "I can't."

It's one of the few things I cannot do. I've tried, believe me, I have. She asked the question literally. However, I answered rhetorically.

With thoughts of all the education available from numerous sources, I want to share my thoughts on education and its positive impact.

For an officer, after completion of the bachelor degree requirements, my initial expectation was that I'm done. After 17 straight years of formal education, I was glad that was over with. Not so, said the Air Force. Oh no, what was I getting into, I thought.

I was sent to technical school for aircraft maintenance. Okay, at least I got paid for that school. I arrived at my first assignment, proud that I completed my education. Now I get to relax and perform, right?

Within the first month my first commander asked, "Have you applied for a master's degree? There are some good colleges here."

"Umm OK," I replied.

All the while, he showed me a career path diagram illustrating courses specific to my career field, professional military education, and then he provides the best mentoring advice--"Joe, I encourage you to learn to enjoy going to school."

Next thing I knew, I was enrolled in back-to-back missile repair courses, sent to a two-week safety mishap prevention course and going to night school for a master's degree. I didn't realize how much education was available during my first tour in the Air Force.

Then, it was on to professional military education, which provided a solid foundation for basic Air Force history and leadership.

After completing PME, I thought, "Wow, what civilian jobs would ever send someone to a school like that?" It taught teamwork, leadership and core values. After the course, I started to consider the enjoyment of going to school. Can someone be a career student? The answer is yes.

A couple different jobs and a few training courses later, I'm at the next level of PME. I am at the library studying. I don't have the time, I want to go home and I'm hungry. All of these distractions, but I knock it out. It dawns on me that this is a way of life - continuing education, learning then applying academic principles and executing leadership values.

There's more, for those who fly, did I mention ground school? What about joint schools or cross-training with new tech schools? The list goes on and on.

This is only the tip of the iceberg on all the schools available. I encourage you to take advantage of learning opportunities because they lay the foundation for a great career. I have a couple of school opportunities ahead of me and I'm looking forward to them. This is what going to school has done for me. I've learned to enjoy being a lifetime student and I hope you will too.