Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Education key to Air Force advancement

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Blake Mize
JBER Public Affairs

3/18/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- Take a look at the biography of any senior Air Force leader and you're likely to find an extensive list of educational achievements.

This is partly because as Airmen advance in rank, there are more professional military education requirements, such as Squadron Officer School and the Noncommissioned Officer Academy, and partly because those who take advantage of off-duty educational opportunities tend to advance into leadership roles over time.

The methods by which the Air Force conducts business show that education is a vital aspect of success in the Air Force, whether attained through PME, college or both.

For example, a board reviews the records of enlisted members as part of the promotion cycle to the ranks of senior master sergeant and chief master sergeant. Officers' records meet a similar board to achieve major and above. One thing members of these boards consider is each candidate's commitment to education.

"Education is a huge advantage in getting promoted," said Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Call, 673d Air Base Wing command chief. "They're not so much looking at whether you have a bachelor's or a master's degree. They're looking at if you're continually educating yourself for the betterment of both yourself and the mission."

All commissioned officers must possess at least a bachelor's degree, but other than that, no degree is required to advance in the Air Force. However, Call said it's very rare for enlisted members to achieve the rank of senior master sergeant if they have not obtained at least an associate's degree, in their career field's focus, from the Community College of the Air Force.

"It's not written in stone, but to get a senior-rater endorsement on your senior NCO [enlisted performance report], you have to have your CCAF and Course 14 done," Call said. "If you don't have a senior-rater endorsement [as a master sergeant], you're not going to get promoted."

Course 14 is a computer-based, prerequisite PME course needed prior to attending the Senior NCO Academy in residence.

Promotion is just one area where off-duty education is beneficial to an Airman's career. Besides the advantage of becoming better educated, the initiative to pursue higher learning also bolsters successful quarterly and annual awards submissions - which in turn, help establish a member's record of sustained high performance.

"The biggest thing we look for is what sets the individual being nominated for the award above their peers," said Call, who has judged many award packages during his 26-year Air Force career. "When we see things like 'pursuing education' or 'completed CCAF degree' or 'pursuing a bachelor's degree,' those really give them high marks."

Call said it's not as important to focus on finishing a degree quickly.

"In my personal opinion, keeping consistent all the time, keeping in that mindset just keeps you on your toes and more valuable to the mission," he said. "My mindset when I was coming up was to show continued education throughout my whole career, not that I was doing four classes at one time to get it done in a year and then not doing anything else for the next ten years."

Call also mentioned that college and PME are not the only ways to stay well informed.

"Don't always wait for information to be fed to you," Call said. "Read books on leadership and management. We've had a lot of great leaders that have come before us that have documented their experiences and there is a lot that can be learned or garnered from all that. We call it doctrine."

There are many educational benefits available to Airmen, including tuition assistance and the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. For more information, contact your local education center (552-9643 or 552-9647 on JBER-Elmendorf) or access the Virtual Education Center on the Air Force Portal at .

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