Your education doesn't stop with TA
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- -- "We understand suspension of TA benefits makes things tougher, but there are other ways for Airmen to complete CCAF degrees. CLEP exams, the G.I. Bill, scholarships, and federal grants are some options." Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody, wrote to Airmen.
Just six credits shy of my Community College of the Air Force degree, I met the recent announcement to suspend the military's Tuition Assistance program with regret and disappointment.
My situation is similar to some of my Wolf Pack comrades. I'm presently married and have a beautiful baby girl--a family I provide for using my senior airman's pay.
This brings to mind the question of, how will I continue my professional development and acquire that much-desired CCAF degree before I get a line number for staff sergeant, myself goal I set for myself four years ago? At the same time, how will the nearly 105,000 Airmen who used TA in 2012 continue to pursue their higher education in light of this recent development?
Many of us have read the Air Force Enlisted Structure and know junior enlisted to senior NCOs continue to pursue professional development and are frequently encouraged to earn their CCAF degrees.
Despite TA being suspended, we must remember our oath of defending the constitution as our top priority. Part of that commitment includes recognizing every Airman should be developing themselves through professional and personal education opportunities.
Fortunately, there are many options available to Airmen. Our local education centers collect information on many opportunities available to students in the military.
According to Mary E. Ellis, director of Tampa Bay Campuses for Webster University, "Effective immediately, Webster University will absorb the TA portion for Spring and Summer terms for any military member who was unable to get TA. This also applies to new students as well. Military members will still pay their portion. Application fees will also be waived for new military students."
This is just one example of programs and information available to Airmen. Contact the education center to find out if your college has a similar program or for information on joining one that does.
Kunsan Air Base also has CLEP exams available, including resources at the education center and library to study for exams. These exams are available at no-cost the first time they are taken. Additionally ,there are multiple federal financial aid, grants and scholarships available for Airmen and some not only cover tuition, but books as well.
Another concern fellow Airmen have mentioned to me includes filling the training requirement block on their Enlisted Performance Report, thus fulfilling the "whole-person concept." This block is commonly filled with off-duty education bullets. Cody answered this when he took questions from Airmen regarding TA suspension, March 14.
"There are a lot of things you can do besides just off-duty education in the course of a year that would fall under that whole person concept of improving yourself," Cody said.
Talk to your supervisor about your specific situation. Finally, out of the 940 Airmen assigned to Kunsan, 890 already have 12 or more college credits, according to Air Force Personnel Office.
Despite present fiscal realities, this fact reaffirms the dedication my fellow Airmen share in bettering our future and that of our Air Force. We must continue to strive to be the best Airmen we can be. In doing so, we convey our resiliency and dedication by taking advantage of opportunities that develop us personally and professionally.
As Marquis de Vauvenarques, a French moralist and essayist said, "The greatest achievement of the human spirit is to live up to one's opportunities and make the most of one's resources."
As I have tried to do for myself and my family, I encourage my fellow Wolf Pack Airmen to make the most of this development and use it as an opportunity to rise above the curve.