The Air Force has big dreams for your education, do you?

  • Published
  • By Micah Garbarino
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Airmen serving today have a unique opportunity to apply their work experience toward an associate's degree from the nation's largest accredited community college, but despite the variety of education benefits available, many of them aren't.

Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center and Tinker installation Command Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Vegas wants to change that. His goal is to raise CCAF graduation rates on Tinker over the next two years.

Chief Vegas obtained his CCAF degree in Allied Health Sciences in 1998. Any Airman who would like to reach the rank of chief master sergeant would be well advised to do the same, because A CCAF degree is a requirement for "senior-rater endorsement," a key weighted factor on the senior master sergeant promotion board, Chief Vegas said.

"Many of us came into the Air Force because we wanted to do something better with our lives as we serve our country. A CCAF degree enables us to do just that. A CCAF degree has value - value for you and our Air Force," Chief Vegas said.

"The reaction I get when I speak to most people is "Wow! I can't believe it's that simple,'" said J.D. Coy, a guidance counselor with the 72nd Force Support Squadron Education Services office. He counsels Airmen to get their CCAF degree with an eye toward continuing higher education.

What simplifies the CCAF is the streamlining of credit hours. The CCAF requires 64 semester hours for an associate's degree. If an Airman pursues a degree related to their career field, then many are more than halfway to completion after basic training (4 hours for Physical Education), tech school and career development courses (24 hours in core study) and Airman Leadership School (6 hours in Management Studies).

This is something that's been no secret to Airmen like Master Sgt. Jennifer Brooks, a training manager for the 72nd Medical Group. She completed two CCAF degrees, mostly while her husband was deployed. She went on to earn a bachelor's degree and a master's degree.

"I worked full time. I would put the kids to bed and work on my papers and research at night. I had goals and maintained them," Sergeant Brooks said. "I did it all through tuition assistance. You can't beat it. I still have most of my GI bill eligibility left too."

Sergeant Brooks and 72nd MDG First Sgt. Elizabeth White, invited Mr. Coy to the 72nd MDG conference room so Airmen like Airman 1st Class Waylon Branscum could get in-house counseling on their education goals before they make the mistake of putting it off, or jumping in over their heads.

"I want to reach my goals of being a history teacher. I want to keep my mind active. I think this is going to help a lot because Mr. Coy explained everything I need to do," Airman Branscum said.

Often, Airmen are overwhelmed by the education options available to them Mr. Coy said. Some of them don't know the difference between a semester hour or a quarter hour and how credits transfer from one school to the next. It can be challenging.

"Frequently people jump right into school without knowing the basics," Mr. Coy said.

Fortunately there is a wealth of information available through the education links on the Air Force Portal that Airmen can review and they can always schedule an appointment with a counselor at the Education Services Office he said.

One of the greatest benefits of earning a CCAF degree before Airmen move on to higher education is the Associate to Baccalaureate Cooperative program available through Air University, which has partnered with "military friendly" schools across the country to allow Airmen to transfer the maximum amount of their CCAF credits toward a related bachelor's degree. Currently there are numerous degree programs available from over 40 participating colleges and universities, loosely related to Airmen's career fields.

"It's the schools' way of getting attendance in their programs, and for Airmen you really can't beat it. It's a win-win," Mr. Coy said.

For more information on the CCAF check out the Air Force Virtual Education Center Link on the left-hand side of the Air Force Portal home page or call the 72nd FSS Education Services Office at 739-7408. Chief Vegas is also seeking Airmen to become education mentors, willing to assist and motivate other Airmen in their education.

"Gaining a CCAF degree is a significant accomplishment that reflects the priority you place on education in your life and your journey to continue improving," Chief Vegas said. "CCAF degrees prepare you for future leadership positions, and since CCAF degrees are vocation specific your degree is making you a more professional Airman."

"A degree from CCAF is also extremely valuable in seeking employment outside of the Air Force", said Mr. Coy, who used to be a veterans employment representative for the State of New York. "The real value of the CCAF career field degree is that in the statement it makes about one's dedication to the job -- a very desirable personality trait that employers look for," he said.