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Commentary: The Importance of Education

Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. -- One-third of a credit hour! That is all I needed for my Community College of the Air Force degree that I pursued more than 10 years ago. I had some previous college credit when I joined the Air Force but for some reason my three-credit math class could only be converted to 2.66 credits. As a self-professed procrastinator with an unhealthy fear of math, I delayed retaking that final class. What finally convinced me to take the plunge and finish my degree? Two people helped me see the light.

One was my unit superintendent at Hickam AFB who took the time to mentor me on the importance of education. At the time he was two or three classes away from obtaining his master's degree. The other was a subordinate of mine who came back from the education service office, animated and energized in her description of her new CCAF degree plan. "If they can do it, I can do it" was my new mantra. 

I faced my fear and sought out the advice of the education counselor. Not only did we finalize my degree plan and pick out a math class that would give me the required credit, I set up an appointment with a local college counselor to see how long it would take for me to receive a bachelor's degree. I was totally amazed. With all the Air Force classes and courses I had taken over the years, I was roughly 56-60 credits away from a bachelor's degree. I was totally energized. The wheels of my brain started to turn and I could visualize myself walking across the stage to the sounds of "Pomp and Circumstance." Not only was I going to obtain my CCAF degree, I was determined to get a bachelor's degree. 

My first day of math class was not nearly as traumatic as I thought it would be. The last time I had a math class was 20 years earlier in my freshman year of college and it was torture. However, my new instructor had a genial way of teaching the fundamentals of math that just about anyone could understand. Each week I gained more and more confidence in my math skills. I ended up with a B in the class. To this day, I cannot understand why I let my fear of math keep me from taking the class and receiving my CCAF degree. 

What can you take from my experience? I have a couple of lessons I learned the hard way. One, go and see your local education service office for an updated degree plan in your career field. The base education office has a wealth of information on degree requirements, required credits, and tuition assistance. You can even obtain your own progressive report from the Air Force Virtual Education Center Web site via the Air Force Portal. You might be closer to a CCAF degree than you think. 

The second lesson, absolutely do not procrastinate. Get your education today. Make your mantra "If they can do it, I can do it" and take a class today. It might surprise you how easy it can be. At first, you might struggle with the adjustment of being in a classroom environment again. For me, it had been more than 10 years since I stepped into a college classroom. Trust me, it does get easier. I am happy to say that not only did I get my CCAF degree in 2006, I walked across the stage in 2007 to receive a Bachelor of Science Degree in Occupational Education. It was one of the proudest days of my life (and my parents too).
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