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CCAF reveals Airman's potential

Commentary by Airman 1st Class Colin Sobol

Commentary by Airman 1st Class Colin Sobol, 60th Medical Support Squadron

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Community College of the Air Force degree can mean a lot of different things, depending on who you ask.

To some, it is something they need to get to attain the next rank. It's as simple as that, a stepping stone. Some will tell you it's the start of their education, a stop on their way to a bachelor's degree. Others may tell you it means they are the first person in their family to hold a degree.

No matter where your perspective falls on the spectrum, one thing is clear: The Air Force, more than any other branch of the military, wants you to be educated, hold a degree and to pursue the betterment of yourself.

For this Airman, that is quite a thing. I was classified by many educators from a young age as "a waste of potential" and grew up fulfilling that image. Having not graduated from high school meant that not only did I face an uphill battle trying to make a living, but I was not even eligible for military service, as the recruiter informed me the first time I paid a visit to the office.

So all those years ago, I found myself in an unusual position of having to attend college to get into the military. It didn't matter how well I could score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery -- without 15 college credits, they wouldn't even let me in the door.

Through a few years of stringing classes together and trying to earn enough money to stay afloat and pay for school, I had managed to gain 14 credits. The last class I took to complete the requisite credits was "career development," which I hoped would give me a concrete direction while bumping me over 15 credits.

The No. 1 career this course pointed me toward was military service. It was at my brother's graduation from basic training, swelling with pride, that I made the final decision to follow through on my life-long goal.

Now, once more, the Air Force has bestowed on me the pursuit of education. Last month, I did something that in the past seemed like a distant dream. I walked onto a stage to shake a hand and receive my CCAF.

For me, however, the CCAF extends far beyond this one event. Walking on that stage wasn't just taking a few steps toward my diploma. It was the first step toward my future.
There has been plenty of hard work on the way to this point, but this is the first time I have felt truly encouraged to focus my academic potential. This is a culture of education and self-improvement fostered by the Air Force that is embodied in the CCAF.

This is just the start of the amazing educational opportunity fostered by our branch of the service for its members. We all know that tuition assistance is available for advanced education, but many members don't know about another amazing opportunity to accelerate their potential.

The Air Force has collaborated with dozens of accredited and widely known universities to form a revolutionary educational opportunity. The Air University Associate to Baccalaureate Cooperative program allows Airmen to utilize 100 percent of the credits from a CCAF toward one of many baccalaureate programs from a wide range of schools. Using this program effectively cuts the time and course load it takes to earn a bachelor's degree in half.

As the only branch of the military with opportunities like these available, there can be no doubt as to where the priority of the Air Force lies - exactly where it should, in its people.
So, what does the CCAF mean to me? For this Airman, my CCAF means I can stop asking why I haven't done more with my potential. Now, armed with this knowledge of self-worth, I am wondering how far I can go and what I will become.