Education key to success in Air Force, life

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Billye Hutchison
  • 71st Medical Operations Squadron commander
I was honored to be the guest speaker for Embry Riddle Aeronautical University's recent graduation because I believe that education is vital to personal and professional growth. I modified my speech from that day to share with my fellow Team Vance members.

I believe an educational journey begins from birth and should never end. Every day brings a new experience or opportunity for informal learning and is crucial to our continuation. For this article I want to focus on the great benefits of continuing a formal education and how that benefits our great Air Force and our personal lives.

I love to talk about our great Air Force, the exciting jobs we do and the Air Force focus on education. Our Air Force realizes that a well educated force broadens an individual's perspective and exposes them to new experiences and thoughts so that the Air Force then benefits from previously untapped talents.

That opens all sorts of doors to innovation and creativity in our technologically driven world. The focus on education doesn't just concentrate on acquiring knowledge, but improves personal interaction because education aides in leadership skills, communication skills and other varied techniques for relating to different peoples, cultures, philosophies and on and on.

On a personal note, education has always been a passion for me. When I was a little girl growing up in the early sixties -- yes, I am dating myself -- my dad encouraged me to pursue an education and career so that I would never be dependent on anyone else for my livelihood. You have to remember he grew up in a time where women rarely worked outside of the home.

So, for a man that grew up in the 1930s and 1940s that was very progressive thinking toward his three daughters. I thank my dad for planting that seed early. It has been a driving force in my life, so much so that I also passed on to my daughter and I hope to everyone I have ever had the pleasure to be a supervisor or mentor for.

A continuous pursuit and passion for learning says a lot about the individual and their priorities. Those who make education a key component of their life value not only the opportunities a degree provides and the doors it can open, but depict a person that believes learning more about the world and gathering knowledge in areas other than your particular expertise is important.

There is a wonderful quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. that says "intelligence plus character is the goal of true education." It is education that broadens our perspectives, keeps us from becoming stagnant in our thinking and reasoning, drives us out of our rut and opens our eyes to possibilities and further develops our perception of the environment and the world around us. In turn, as we personally interpret and incorporate that knowledge, we transition in our way of thinking and relating to the world.

And the results are what? We live the Air Force Core Values of integrity first, excellence in all we do and service before self every day, and with these additions from our educational pursuits we continue to build a strong character and personal value system.

Education isn't just a piece of paper that says we have completed the degree requirements. It is about hard work, stimulating thought, tasking our brain to go beyond our old boundaries of thinking and searching for answers. In turn that generates more questions so that our inquisitive search for knowledge is constantly stimulated.

As a result, education not only keeps us moving forward and enriching the individual and our family's lives but who knows the number of other people we touch, inspire and positively influence through our educational journey. Not only is the individual changed, but so are others. From those changes new ideas are created, new avenues are pursued to solve local and national level problems. The possibilities are endless.

If you haven't yet taken those additional steps toward a formal education, take a deep breath, get rid of those lame excuses, move forward and step forward and into that first class. For those that are already on that education journey, look back to who or what started you on your educational journey and how far you have come.

Then think about what you have started and the possibility that you or someone you encouraged to move forward in educational pursuits will be the one to find cures for deadly diseases, or solve a critical environmental problem, or negotiate a settlement to hostilities somewhere in the world. As many have already found, further education never limits opportunities, it only makes the possibilities for good things limitless.

Restart the educational journey you began at birth, continued through your childhood and into adolescence and finally culminated in young adulthood through college or technical school credits. The chance for formal or informal educational opportunities present themselves to you every day and I challenge you to step forward and embrace them. You never know where they may take you.