News: A degree of success
Story by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - A deployment can offer Airmen an opportunity to work on personal goals such as weight loss or improved physical fitness. But for one member of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing deployed to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, a deployment has provided the opportunity to complete her associate degree requirements.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Chandra Smith, a member of the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, is working on her Community College of the Air Force associate in applied science degree in criminal justice.
She earned the majority of her credits in a traditional classroom environment while taking classes offered at universities located near her home station of Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
The English course she is now enrolled in will be her third online class, and the final one needed to complete her degree.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Smith. “With the six months of being gone from home I can focus on school and get it out of the way.”
The five-week online class will afford her a chance to interact with her instructor and members of her online class. She can also access resources offered by the university that include an online library.
She considers that her higher education will be a marketable commodity once her Air Force career is complete and she applies for work in the civilian sector.
“It’s important because a degree shows that you took the time out to get yourself together,” said Smith. “It shows you’re motivated and you’re passionate about school. It might not be who you know but what you know inside, and if you have that degree that’s a good accomplishment for yourself and for your future.”
She encourages Airmen to include a higher education goal when planning for their next deployment.
“If you can make time to go to the gym, you can make time to sign up for school,” said Smith. “In six months you can easily complete two classes.”
The flight chief of the 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron education services office said there are many opportunities available for Airmen to continue their education during their deployment.
Tech. Sgt. George Whitehead said the 380th AEW education office maintains a national test control center and can administer College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) exams for Airmen who are interested in challenging college-level coursework for CCAF credit.
“We have a master listing of CLEP and DANTES exams that apply towards the CCAF degree,” said Whitehead. “So we have a lot of people that come through and utilize our study material and study and CLEP their way to their degree.”
The University of Maryland University College also offers college classes that are taught to deployed Airmen in an onsite classroom environment.
“I would encourage people to take advantage of school while they’re here,” said Whitehead. “In my opinion, it’s about performance. To make yourself more marketable you need to be able to show something for yourself. What separates you from the other person is that you’ve taken the time to increase your education. The more you know, the more you can do. The Air Force culture is real big on personal development, so to have that achievement is a big deal.”
Smith looks forward to returning home and receiving her hard-earned associate in applied science degree. She intends to participate in her home unit graduation ceremony.
“My goal is to come back home and walk across the stage and get my diploma,” said Smith.
Smith doesn’t plan on stopping her education once she’s been awarded her associate degree. She plans to continue her education and is interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business marketing.