YoCCAF initiative provides support, benefits to Airmen
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Staff Sgt. Joshua Rager (right), from the 66th Comptroller Squadron, gives information about a Community College of the Air Force degree to Staff Sgt. Karey Garrison, from the 64th Air Refueling Squadron at Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H., in the Brown Building on March 8. As part of the Year of the Community College of the Air Force initiative, Sergeant Rager volunteers as a partner in education and encourages other Airmen at Hanscom and geographically separated units to seek their CCAF degree. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)
Posted 3/9/2011 Updated 3/9/2011
by Sarah Olaciregui
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
3/9/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- The Year of the Community College of the Air Force initiative just kicked off in January, and officials say things are already off to a great start.
Master Sgt. Colleen Beverly, Master Sgt. Shon Teicheira and Staff Sgt. Carrie Jordan recently volunteered to serve as the local representatives with Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Williams, Electronic Systems Center command chief, and the base's Education and Training Center on the command-wide initiative. The sergeants, known as the secretaries of education, have been targeting those enlisted members that are 15 credits or less away from completing a CCAF degree.
"Our job is to work with Airmen and let them know just how close they are to completing a degree," said Sergeant Jordan. "We have found that some may even have enough credits to have a CCAF degree because they are already working toward a bachelor's degree, but it's just a matter of sending in a transcript. We give them the knowledge and tools to move forward."
They work with Chief Williams and provide to him information to report to the Air Force Materiel Command. In return, Chief Williams helps them get the tools they need to make the initiative here a success.
"Education is a priority for me and I think most goals a person wants to achieve in life are pursued through education," said Chief Williams. "Through the CCAF initiative, I provide focus for the secretaries and help them develop messages to give to the targeted Airmen. I work with the first sergeants to help push the message out and work to eliminate any obstacles the secretaries are encountering."
In return, the three sergeants act as the chief's messengers and provide feedback from the Airmen. In addition, for those that still need to complete more classes to obtain a CCAF degree, the secretaries help them figure out how they can succeed.
"We want to work with the troops on their own schedule," Sergeant Teicheira said. "If they need a tutor, we try and set them up with an appropriate tutor. If they need a place to meet or study, we will help them find a place in the education center or a conference room somewhere on base."
The three sergeants said the support they have received from leadership, commanders, first sergeants and others has been phenomenal.
"The CGOs (company grade officers) have been a great help," said Sergeant Beverly. "When a group of them found out we were looking for tutoring volunteers, they stepped up and told us what subjects or skills they were strongest in so we could partner them with an enlisted member who was working toward a similar degree."
In addition, the secretaries said, the education center has been working with the tutoring volunteers to help them know what to expect when tutoring the enlisted members.
In all, about 20 people have volunteered to tutor, and the group is referring to them as "partners in education."
Since the initiative began in January, the secretaries, with help from unit representatives, have made 100 percent contact with the targeted enlisted members, helped some of them send in transcripts, worked with others to take CLEP tests and let the targeted members know about classes to take on base and around the area.
"The word of mouth publicity has really made a difference," said Sergeant Jordan. "Now, younger Airmen who may not have completed ALS (Airman Leadership School) are following the lead and signing up for classes. It's triggered more interest."
Chief Williams has also noticed a difference.
"I was pleasantly surprised when I attended the last dorm dinner," he said. "When the Airmen started leaving early, I found out it was because they had to go to class. They were taking the initiative seriously."
The three sergeants agree the YoCCAF initiative is something that is worthwhile for a variety of reasons.
"Education is invaluable," said Sergeant Beverly. "For those that don't plan on making a career out of the Air Force, if they complete their CCAF, they can leave the service with an associate's degree. This already puts them miles ahead of people who may be coming out of high school and have little or no college education. We all know that the more education you have, the more money you make throughout your life."
Sergeant Teicheira put the initiative in another perspective.
"Many Airmen may be apprehensive about taking more classes," he said. "They may think they don't have time because they have too many family and work obligations. I think this initiative helps because the troops have someone who they can take classes with or know they can sign up for a tutor. It helps them feel more comfortable about the whole process."
He also said more education makes a person more competitive and a degree may be the difference between getting an interview for a job, getting a promotion or not even being considered.
Chief Williams thinks YoCCAF hits the right chord because it targets Airmen earlier in their careers.
"I didn't get my first CCAF as early as I would have liked to," he said. "Now, as we target the junior NCOs, it impresses upon them early that getting an education is important."
The secretaries feel it's important to lead by example, as well. All three have completed a CCAF degree and are working on furthering their education.
"I want to continue my education to help my family," said Sergeant Teicheira, who is working toward a bachelor's degree in homeland security. "Also, as a supervisor, I can't promote something if I'm not doing it myself. I want to lead by example."
Sergeant Jordan stressed the benefits of completing education while still serving in the Air Force.
"While you're in the Air Force, you can use tuition assistance to pay for classes," she said. "Then, you can pass along the Post 9/11 GI Bill to your dependents. It just makes sense on so many levels. You can get an education for free and also help your family with college tuition in the future."
Continuing education is just as important for those enlisted members that plan on retiring from the Air Force, according to Sergeant Jordan.
"Having a CCAF is the difference between promoting to master sergeant or not," she said. "Your worth is what's on paper. In this day and age you need to be smarter and more educated to be competitive."
Chief Williams reiterated what Sergeant Jordan said.
"Education is congruent with most endeavors in life," he said. "A CCAF helps put Airmen in the mindset to succeed and is a segue to more opportunities in the Air Force. Obtaining a CCAF, or any education, makes you relevant."
Sergeants Beverly, Teicheira and Jordan are enjoying their posts as secretaries of education and are committed to helping the Airmen.
"We're always looking for ideas to help motivate Airmen to get their CCAF," said Sergeant Teicheira. "Will promotional items help? Do you want to get a calculator or a mug if you sign up for the YoCCAF initiative? We're open to anything; anything that helps the military."
Anyone interested in learning more about YoCCAF may contact the secretaries of education directly or call the Hanscom Education and Training Center at 781-377-3120.