Initiative to boost number of CCAF graduates

  • Published
  • By John Scaggs
  • Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- In an attempt to increase the number of Community College of the Air Force graduates on Air Force Materiel Command bases, command officials rolled out a plan entitled "Year of the Community College of the Air Force" Jan. 1.

Gen. Donald Hoffman, commander of the Air Force Materiel Command, addressed the importance of the campaign in a Commander's Log sent via e-mail Dec. 27 (and published in the Hilltop Times on Dec. 29). In that column, the general indicated that AFMC's Year of the Community College of the Air Force, or YoCCAF, will emphasize the need for enlisted Airmen to earn college degrees, specifically a CCAF degree.

"Formal education after high school is a path to promotion and personal development for enlisted Airmen and a commodity highly valued in all Air Force members," wrote Hoffman. "Even the wisest mind has something more to learn."

The general's CC Log states that 24 percent of AFMC's enlisted Airmen have a CCAF degree. The command's goal is to increase that number by 10 percent in 2011.

Chief Master Sgt. Eric Jaren, AFMC command chief, adds that the YoCCAF campaign could increase CCAF degree completions to 50 percent of eligible Airmen over the next three years.

"We plan to accomplish this through a strategic communication plan featuring aggressive marketing and peer mentoring," Jaren said. "During 2011 we also will launch a 12-part series of articles called 'My Education Journey' to showcase stories of Airmen completing their education."

As AFMC's top enlisted member, Chief Jaren will provide program guidance. His headquarters AFMC co-hort is Shelly Owczarski, who is chief, Voluntary Education/Library Programs within the Manpower, Personnel and Services Directorate.

According to Owczarski, each AFMC base will set up a program committee to identify eligible Airmen, pair them with mentors and track progress. Bases will also appoint Secretaries of Education, who will work with their education office and disseminate information to mentors.

"Mentors are people with a passion for developing Airmen and who already have a CCAF degree or higher," Owczarski said. "Mentors will be on the front lines, so to speak, encouraging 'mentees' to complete their CCAF degree through a combination of peer monitoring and education office counseling."

Added Jaren, "Mentors will also follow up with 'mentees' and provide assistance throughout the year."

The program focuses on Airmen who have completed their career development courses and are in the grades of E-4 through E-7. Many Airmen in this group have earned 45 semester hours or more of college credit.

"Our databases indicate that a lot of people are within 15-30 hours of graduating, due to credits accumulated by completing basic training and technical school," Owczarski said. "In many cases, all that is required are completion of the general education classes, some of which Airmen can fulfill by passing a College Level Examination Program, or CLEP, test ... which is free."

As for costs associated with pursuing a CCAF degree, Airmen can take advantage of the Air Force Tuition Assistance program when enrolling for courses online through the Air Force's Virtual Education Center. Additionally, book repositories or other programs exist at some AFMC bases to minimize or eliminate textbook costs.

During YoCCAF, AFMC base education office employees will increase marketing efforts through media channels and by making visits to units and professional organizations. Airmen can also schedule individual counseling sessions with base education office representatives to determine remaining academic requirements necessary for degree completion.

Jaren -- who earned a CCAF degree in aircraft maintenance technology in 1998 -- and Owczarski will meet with base program managers to gauge progress. The chief said he expects the program to pay dividends now and in the future.

"It's important for the enlisted force to understand that a CCAF degree will help them in numerous ways," he continued. "A CCAF degree not only enhances personal and professional growth, it also increases opportunities for special duty and promotion. Education prepares Airmen to meet current and future leadership, managerial and technological challenges within their career fields and while also making them better NCOs and supervisors.

"In 2011, it's time for all levels of leadership, supervisors and those who have agreed to serve as mentors to become more involved in the educational growth of our Airmen," Jaren said. "It's a win-win for them and for the Air Force."