TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Every month, we have a newcomers brief in the squadron. During every brief, the commander and I spend some time introducing ourselves. It’s pretty basic-where we grew up, previous assignments, family and so on. We always finish up with goals.
While I do have personal, family, professional, financial and many other types of goals, I usually end up spending most of my time talking to our new Airmen about education. A long-term goal of mine has been to complete both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree prior to retirement.
My collegiate story starts in the summer of 1996 at Clarkson University, in Potsdam, New York. I was a brand new freshman with a Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship. Obviously, that didn’t work out for me. A few twists and turns (and 22 years) aside, I’ve now finished my bachelor’s degree and I’m working on my master’s. Mine is a lengthy story filled with many reasons, or excuses, as to why I couldn’t make education my priority.
As an Airman, I felt that I was too busy being on the road and learning my job to go to school. Then there was Airman Leadership School, becoming a noncommissioned officer and rating on two or three Airmen. Clearly I didn’t have the time to go to school. After a permanent change of station to Geilenkirchen Air Base, Germany, I finally registered for classes through the University of Maryland University College. I hung with it long enough to complete the requirements for my Community College of the Air Force degree, an associate’s in math and an additional math certificate. Then my son was born, followed by my daughter, and later, we were assigned back to the states.
At the time, both my wife and I were active-duty Airmen. She would deploy, then I would deploy. It was a bit of a vicious cycle. Then, suddenly, six years had passed. I was a master sergeant working flightline production with two kids. Obviously, no time for school there either.
It took yet another PCS, to Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, to finally get me back in school. I’d been in the Air Force for 15 years, was a senior master sergeant with two school-aged kids. Any parent will tell you that kids bring baseball, gymnastics, football, basketball, karate and skiing into the mix. At this point, I had to make time for school, which meant lots of late nights and early weekends.
Our latest PCS brought us to Travis AFB, California. I’ve recently finished my bachelor’s degree which is the first part of my goal.
I’m currently the squadron superintendent responsible for more than 275 people in our organization coupled with the most demanding flying schedule of any C-17 Globemaster III unit in the Air Force. Time for school is difficult to make to say the least, but because I found so many excuses and procrastinated for so long on school, I now find the time for school.
As we go around the room each month at our newcomer’s briefing 85 to 90 percent of the people in the room express some sort of educational goal. When it’s my turn, I share my story as a message of what not to do.
If education is a goal of yours, make the time to start now. All of us will only get busier as we progress through our careers. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an Airman in the dorms waiting to start your bachelor’s, or putting off working on a graduate degree. There’s never an easy time to get back in school, but there will almost certainly be a more inconvenient one.