WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- In a mid-year update on Air Force Materiel Command's Year of the Community College of the Air Force, Chief Master Sgt. Eric Jaren, AFMC command chief, said the campaign is yielding positive results and on track to meet or even exceed its goals.
Launched in January, YoCCAF aims to increase the number of the command's enlisted Airmen with a CCAF degree by 10 percent in 2011. Throughout the year, 700 mentors at AFMC bases have been reaching out to the 10,000-plus Airmen in the E-4 to E-7 target audience to make that happen, Jaren said.
"YoCCAF mentoring should always be face-to-face. It's an opportunity to discuss degree plans, academic resources and tuition assistance options," he added. "Just as importantly, though, it's a chance for the mentor to share his or her personal education journey, which is a way to say, 'If I can do it, anyone can!'"
So far, the mentoring seems to be working well.
"With the busiest months for CCAF enrollments still left in 2011, we predict individual enrollments of Airmen assigned to AFMC bases will surpass our historical average," said Shelly Owczarski, chief of Voluntary Education/Library Programs within the command's Manpower, Personnel and Services Directorate. "If course enrollments continue at the pace realized in the first nine months of the year, we will surpass 40,000. Right now we are on track to exceed a 20 percent increase in enrollments over last year."
Although enrollments are up, YoCCAF's impact on degree completions might take longer to see.
"The true impact of the campaign will not be known for 12 to18 months, as most Airmen must take five or more courses to finish their CCAF degree," Owczarski said. "Even so, based upon the significant increase in the number of individuals enrolled and the increase in enrollments for future terms, we predict the number of CCAF graduates from AFMC bases in 2012 will surpass our 10 percent goal."
According to Lt. Col. Jonathan Hamill, Community College of the Air Force commandant, AFMC is already breaking records.
"Our analysis of the Spring 2011 CCAF graduating class revealed AFMC bases produced a record number of graduates even though the YoCCAF campaign had been under way only three months," he said. "I expect the trend to continue with another record AFMC class this fall. The program's results are a testament to the potent combination of a clear leadership message on the value of education, the hard work of AFMC's education services personnel, and the superb quality of AFMC's enlisted force.
"CCAF is proud to partner with General Hoffman, Chief Jaren and team AFMC in their Year of the CCAF program," Hamill continued. "YoCCAF is a fantastic outreach effort designed to inform AFMC enlisted members of the many education benefits the AF provides enlisted personnel and motivate them to pursue their CCAF degrees or further educational goals."
Jaren encouraged leadership at the bases to meet with their YoCCAF teams to thank them for the huge difference they are making, but added that there's still time to make the campaign an even bigger success.
"Let's re-motivate the team to get back out there and engage the target audience again, especially since many have returned from deployments or transferred into AFMC since the initiative began," he said. "We have momentum -- let's see it through!"
Based on the success of YoCCAF, Jaren suggested pressing forward next year with the "Year of Continuing Education."
"We need to strike while the iron is hot," he said. "We can take it to the next level in 2012. Despite the many strains on our budgets and time, we always need to stress the importance of education."
Gen. Donald Hoffman, AFMC commander, agreed. Physical fitness, financial fitness and mental fitness (education) are some of the tools we give individuals for continued success when they depart government service, he said.
"Year of the Community College of the Air Force has been a great effort and a tremendous initiative," the general said. "An expanded focus could mean an expanded target population -- enlisted, officer and civilian. It's important to encourage all of our folks to continue challenging themselves and not say, 'I'm done learning now.'"