Education is fundamental

  • Published
  • By Maj. Wistaria Joseph
  • 71st Mission Support Squadron commander
Education is fundamental. It is the passage we make as children into adulthood. It is also the passage that sets us apart and helps to determine our next step.

Time after time, people with skills and abilities have been passed over for promotions and job opportunities because they lack the basic educational experience necessary to ensure credibility.

Let me tell you a little bit about my experience with education.

As a child I remember my first grade teacher telling us that reading is fundamental. While in high school I was placed in the honors program with an accelerated schedule. This program included honors math, science, social studies, and English classes.

Of all my classes, the memorable ones were math and English. Math was exciting because we did unusual things such as a three-part exam: in class written exam, take home exam and an oral exam.

Who ever thought you could do math tests in an oral format? We did. We drew questions out of a hat and had only the chalkboard to answer the question. These advances math classes were tough.

English was the most gruesome because every summer we had at least 15 books to read and 15 reports to write along with a summer journal. Needless to say, it was a painful yet rewarding experience.

Fortunately, all of this work set my foundation for appreciating and looking forward to my future educational experiences. I have always longed to obtain a bachelor's degree. Despite placing in the top of my high school class and applying for numerous scholarships, I was unable to obtain enough funds for school.

So, I made a decision that changed the rest of my life...I enlisted in the United States Force.

With my desire to obtain my bachelor's degree I set out on a course to do just that. Within six months of enlisting I was enrolled in college courses. Then I applied and was accepted to the USAF Academy program.

So, two classes shy of my CCAF degree I entered the USAF Academy Preparatory school with a path to the Academy. I not only achieved my badly desired bachelor's degree, but now I have two Master's degrees.

From time to time I communicate with a number of my high school friends. They are always amazed to hear how much school I have done or am doing and wonder if I will ever stop going to school. Of course, my response is, "why?"

Life is an education and I love learning. I am a firm believer that military service rewards its people with the finest educational opportunities. The Air Force has the best programs available for its military and civilian force.

Not only is tuition assistance available for both military and civilian members, but new and enhanced programs are being introduced all the time. When I entered the service, tuition assistance was only 75%, but now it is 100% with a maximum of $250 per semester hour and $4,500 per fiscal year.

As my sister started talking about closing out her military service with the U.S. Army, I made it very clear to her that I would not accept her retiring without her obtaining her bachelor's degree. Now after 18 years of enlisted service, she is on track to do just that.

Our men and women in the Air Force have even more unique educational opportunities available to them and I challenge each member to take full advantage of them. Do not let a door close that you can easily walk right through when that opportunity knocks.

Air University is now offering our enlisted members the Air University-Associate to Baccalaureate program that affords them the opportunity to use their CCAF degree to continue toward obtaining an accredited bachelor's degree. In January 2008, officers and civilians who enroll in the Air Command and Staff College on-line program will be awarded a Master's of Military Operational Art and Science Degree. Completion of this program also satisfies the requirements for Joint Professional Military Education Phase I, as well as Air Force Intermediate Development Education

To remain competitive in our promotion system--military and civilian--it is important to pursue the educational opportunities as they present themselves. There is no reason for anyone to leave this great Air Force of ours, even after a four or five year term, without some type of education under his or her belt.

A degree program is something that cannot be taken away...once it is earned, it is earned. Our Air Force thrives on its educated workforce--officer, enlisted, and civilian.

So take advantage of what's available. Contact your education counselor at 213-6052 for an appointment so you can start or continue your educational journey. The quality of your life, in or out of the Air Force, will be better for it.

It was my dream and I wasn't sure that I could do it. But with this dream, help, guidance and mentoring, you now have a little Caribbean girl from the housing projects of the U.S. Virgin Islands standing before you as the commander of the 71st Mission Support Squadron. If I can do it, you can too!

But, I am not finished. My ultimate dream when I retire from the Air Force is to be Governor of the United States Virgin Islands, possibly even the first female Governor of the territory. Once again, if I can do it, you can too!! Education really is fundamental.