Thursday, July 18, 2013

My educational journey: It doesn’t have to be a race

by Technical Sgt. Antonio Trigo

7/18/2013 - KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- I enlisted in the Air Force in April 1999. Like many who enlist, I signed up for the benefit of a "paid for" education, in addition to the travel opportunities and honor of serving in the USAF. I had a brand new wife and a baby boy, and joining the Air Force was an excellent opportunity for me and my family.

I understood that accomplishing both my basic training and technical training courses would put me six classes away from a Community College of the Air Force degree. My first duty assignment was Kunsan AB, Korea, in December 1999. I was immediately enrolled into upgrade training to achieve my 5-level, "journeyman" skill level. My supervisor made it clear to me that pursuing my education was important but completing my upgrade training was to be my "main priority." After six months, I was able to complete the EOC exam of my upgrade training, allowing me the opportunity to focus on pursuing my CCAF requirements.

In September 2000, I prepared a degree plan with the University of Maryland University College to map a course to my CCAF and ultimately an undergraduate degree. I completed a speech class prior to my short tour ending in Korea and was then assigned to Dyess AFB, Texas, in December 2000. In 2001, with my second child on the way, I completed five CLEPS/DANTES to satisfy the remaining requirements of my CCAF and was awarded an AAS in Avionic Systems technology in March 2002.

Pursuing an undergraduate degree would prove to be difficult in the years following September 2001. I deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, three separate times for four month from November 2002 through July 2004. It made sense to pursue my bachelor's degree from UMUC online, allowing me to meet the mission of the Air Force, be a husband to my extremely supportive wife, and be a father to my growing family. My wife and I greeted our third child in August 2004.

In September 2004, I was assigned to Kirtland AFB, N.M. I continued to take one or two classes each semester for the next eight years. In March 2008, I became a Field Training Instructor, earning a second CCAF degree in 2009 for Instructor of Military Science, along with a Certification for Instructional System Design and CCAF Instructor Certifications I & II. As an instructor, I was afforded the time to commit to my education goals, and I became an advocate of the CCAF process to my students and coworkers. In May 2012, I earned both a bachelor's in Computer and Information Systems, along with earning a Computer Networking certification from UMUC's certification program.

For me it wasn't a race. Within those eight years, I changed my degree focus a few times until I was satisfied with my focus of study. I learned early on the importance behind balancing my professional development, my home life, and my personal educational goals while serving in the Air Force. UMUC's online degree plans allowed me the flexibility I needed to accomplish my goals.

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