Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. David Brinkley
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
10/4/2012 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- In 1972 the Community College of the Air Force was established by the Air Force Chief of Staff, General John D. Ryan.
Four years later, President Gerald Ford authorized the Air Force, by
law, to confer the associate degree. The CCAF was accredited in the
start of 1977 and by the spring of that same year it awarded its first
Associates of Applied Science degree.
This year the CCAF is expected to award the 400,000th AAS degree since
the college's establishment. This is milestone stands as an impressive
achievement for the college and a testament to the character of the men
and women who make up our enlisted corps.
Unfortunately, some view the CCAF as a degree mill and discount the value of the degree.
Frankly, the investments toward the professional development of our own
Airmen can't be matched by any corporation or any other service - it's
foolish to undermine the efforts of nearly half a million Airmen.
Our enlisted corps is a highly-motivated, well-educated force, and the numbers back it up.
According to official records as of this month, within 412,000 Airmen
serving in the Air Force you will find 77,343 with associate degrees,
29,487 with a bachelor's, 5,090 master's degrees, and 88 who have
reached the highest academic levels and have earned a doctorate or
As we continue to challenge our enlisted corps to chase educational
goals, they will continue to reach more educational milestones; however
for some the accomplishment of their AAS through the CCAF takes a
backseat as they pursue their own interests. As a result, these
well-meaning Airmen have their educational goals operating in reverse.
How do we keep them focused on the importance of completing their CCAF first?
From personal experience, I've reviewed countless Enlisted Performance
Reports and award nominations that highlight a member's progress towards
a baccalaureate degree. At first glance this looks great, balancing
school and work isn't easy but upon further review many have not
completed their CCAF degree.
This tells me the member is more focused on their personal goals than
taking care of the Air Force's fundamental educational expectations.
Some leaders offer guidance and encourage their subordinates to transfer
their baccalaureate degree courses to CCAF so they get credit. But
again, this is another step that reinforces the notion that the CCAF
should be an afterthought and not at the forefront.
As enlisted leaders we are charged to deliberately develop our force. In
the realm of education we must focus our subordinates on the importance
of attaining their CCAF degree first.
This starts with properly approaching Career Development Courses with
the right attitude. Upon completion of CDCs and in conjunction with
on-the-job and up-grade training, members receive college credits;
remind your Airmen they are in fact completing college level courses
through their CDCs.
It is customary to prohibit members in UGT or who are enrolled in CDCs
to simultaneously be enrolled in off-duty civilian education. We advise
our Airmen that when their CDCs and UGT are complete they can then take
college courses. This guidance is misleading. We should be telling our
Airmen that because of the CCAF and their CDCs they are already enrolled
in college and taking college courses.
We have a tendency to reward our Airmen for CDC completion by allowing
them to pursue their bachelor's degree. Instead, we should continue to
mentor our Airmen and keep them focused on their AAS. Once the first
part of their education (CDC, OJT/UGT) is completed we can focus them on
the other approximately 16 semester hours of classes they need for
completion of their CCAF degree. Typically Airmen will enroll in be a
bachelor's degree plan to further their educational goals; however, the
focus should be on accomplishing the CCAF degree requirements rather
than pursue an advanced degree from the beginning.
An Airman would be much better served if their advancement toward a BA
or BS degree would be the by-product of their pursuit toward the AAS
through the CCAF not vice versa. We need to remind our Airmen why CCAF
accomplishment is important.
Some will say that CCAF completion is important because without it a
member hurts their promotion potential; but leaders need to look at the
Individuals may only participate in CCAF degree programs designed for
their Air Force occupation. Why is this? The US Air Force is the best at
developing its workforce for current and future leadership and
technical challenges. The 64 degree programs offered through CCAF are
specifically created and tailored to address technical and leadership
issues a member will encounter in their specialty. Nearly every
profession requires its members to complete some type of education or
certification. Our profession of arms is no different.
Completion of a CCAF degree helps members progress from apprentice to
journeyman and onto craftsman in their trade. Of the 64 credit hours
required for the CCAF AAS, 24 are in the technical education area. These
24 hours are accomplished through Technical School, OJT, UGT and the
CDCs. The Air Force views the AAS as the first important step in the
development of our junior enlisted corps, a step that can't be
substituted with civilian academic degrees. Once Airmen complete this
first and critical obligation then we can encourage them to continue and
achieve other educational goals.
Our force benefits by having a team of educated leaders, managers and Airmen.
The road to educational excellence starts with understanding the true
value of the CCAF AAS degree, accepting and tackling CDC, UGT, OJT as
college level courses and not treating the completion of the CCAF AAS
degree as a secondary goal, but making it our primary purpose and
fulfilling the Air Force's educational expectations before seeking out
further educational opportunities.