A son's commitment to his father kept through CCAF

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Terry Mastin
  • 388th Component Maintenance Squadron
Growing up in Kentucky and loving college basketball, I aspired to play for the Kentucky Wildcats. The only problem was that I never prepared myself academically. Although never studious, I considered myself average in school. As my senior year in high school approached, thoughts of my future raced through my head.

Then my world fell apart: My father was diagnosed with cancer and was given less than a year to live. On many nights I would sit with my father and talk. He told me how proud he was of me and that he wished the best in whatever life had in store for me.

As he succumbed to this disease, I promised that I would better myself -- I would get a college degree. I entered college the following spring but my mind was not there.

Over the next six years I was in and out of school with no clear direction. Life was hard as I didn't have my father to guide me. As I pondered life I decided that I needed to get busy living and follow through with my promise. As I considered my options I decided that I would speak to an Air Force recruiter; one thing I said I would NEVER do.

In the end, it was the BEST move I could have ever made. I entered active duty on May 3 1988 at age 24 and began the uphill challenge to making good on my promise to my father.

At first I struggled with leaving my civilian life and adapting to my new life as an Airman. My first supervisors spent a lot of time getting me on track, for which I'm truly thankful. If it wasn't for them I believe that I would have never been able to keep my promise. As an Airman I began to earn Community College of the Air Force credits by completing my Career Development Courses and upgrade requirements. I continued to earn CCAF credits through Non-Commissioned Officer Preparatory, Airmen Leadership School and NCOA.

But I was still missing the big picture and was not committed to getting my degree.

In 1990 I was re-assigned to Soesterberg Air Base, The Netherlands, a place that changed my life forever.

I met and married my soul mate, and in 1994 we were re-assigned to Robins Air Force Base, Ga., and welcomed our son into the world. Life was good but still not complete. At that time I was hit with major surgery and came close to medical retirement. I looked back over my life and realized that I was missing the promise of a college degree. At that time I re-committed myself to education.

I volunteered to become a tech school instructor which required a CCAF degree. That was the beginning of my serious commitment to education and I have not looked back. I completed my first CCAF in 1997. Now I have two CCAF degrees and one CCAF certificate. I will add two additional certificates this spring, but I didn't stop there. I continued my education with Embry-Riddle and completed my undergraduate degree in professional aeronautics with minors in management and safety in 2007. I will complete my master's degree in aeronautical science with Embry-Riddle this spring.

As I look back over my life, I still miss my father but I know that he is with me and is proud of what I have accomplished. It may have taken me an extended time to realize my place in life but I'm truly grateful for the opportunities I have been given and the accomplishments that I have achieved.

Through education I have super charged my military career and feel that it has given me an edge I otherwise wouldn't have. It has strengthened my knowledge, leadership and management capabilities. Every day I strive to give back to each Airman that I come in contact with the valuable lessons that I have learned. I want them to understand that education can be in their future no matter what limiting factors that they may have. I want them to understand that with increased rank comes increased responsibility. By increasing your education through CCAF and beyond you increase your abilities to be the supervisor, mentor, manager and leader that the Air Force needs and requires for the next generation of Airmen. It is my duty and your duty to educate these Airmen. Are you up to the challenge?