This year 338 Team Hill members earned their associates of applied science degree through Community College of the Air Force, the world's largest community college. This large number of graduates breaks the 2010 record here of 268.
Among the graduates were five 388th Fighter Wing Airmen, who included Master Sgt. Brian Gosselin, Tech. Sgt. Steven Frazier, Tech. Sgt. Rafeal Ruttley, Staff Sgt. Katherine Little and Staff Sgt. Derrick Potter. These Airmen each committed two or more years of time and effort to reach their dream of furthering their education. To help achieve this goal each Airman enrolled in the CCAF, and utilized the tools the education office has readily available for all Airmen.
While waiting for his Air Force promotion, Ruttley decided to put his energy toward earning his CCAF. He used the college level examination program to test out of some classes like sociology, to help earn his degree quickly.
"I never realized getting my education would go by so fast," Ruttley said. "The classes just kept coming and the process was so easy since it was all on the Internet."
Ruttley said he was also inspired by members of the 419th Fighter Wing, who strongly encouraged him to visit the base education office and learn more about earning his degree.
"There were so many schools to choose from," Ruttley said, "And they all take military credit, and they're very flexible with your schedule."
In the end, Ruttley hopes having his degree will shorten the process for getting a good job when he gets out of the Air Force.
Potter's supervisor pushed him to enroll, and like Ruttley, he went to visit the education office to learn more about earning his CCAF. After his counseling session, he also decided to utilize CLEP tests and began his degree.
Potter said he couldn't believe how easy it was to earn his degree by just taking one class at a time. Eventually the classes became part of his daily life.
"Because of the Air Force's easy-to-use tuition assistance, I already started earning my bachelor's degree, and now I'm half way done.
"I really want to encourage others to get their CCAF degree and then move forward with earning their bachelor's degree too. It's important to take advantage of our tuition assistance while it's still available," Potter said.
Shortly after enlisting in the Air Force, Little discovered she would need to earn her CCAF in order to become a senior master sergeant.
Little said she took advantage of some free time while stationed in Germany and enrolled in a few classes. Inspiring her along the way was a chief master sergeant, who took notice of her studying, and said she had the qualities it took to make a great officer one day.
Never before did Little think about becoming an officer, but after hearing that and researching it, she began working on her bachelor's degree in management.
"I felt so much excitement and self-accomplishment earning a degree and being able to use this in and outside of the military," she said. "I will complete my bachelor's degree in March and then begin my master's degree.
"Earning your CCAF is not just about going to school and completing your classes, but it's a learning experience about yourself and a way to advance your knowledge of subjects that you're truly interested in," she said.
Little thinks it's vital to be creative with your assignments and write about what you like.
"Teachers are typically very accepting of new ideas," she said.
The graduates simultaneously advised that if you're thinking about getting out of the Air Force, go to your education office first and learn more about earning your CCAF and see how long it will take you.
Education services specialist, Mark Kuerth, encourages Airmen to "just get started."
"Come to the education office, and once you get started you'll find out you shouldn't have been reluctant to earn your degree; it's not as hard as you think," Kuerth said.
To Kuerth, education counselors at the center evaluate career training and college transcripts, and then explain to the member how to officially have those credits applied to their CCAF degree program.
"For the majority of technical school graduates, with few exceptions, there are only five to seven general education and management classes that students need to meet graduation requirements," said Master Sgt. Chi Swanson, Team Hill's career assistance advisor.
"To make it easier on students schedules, several "brown bag university" classes are offered at units around Team Hill," she said.
The classes are scheduled during normal lunch hours and taught by Park University and Embry Riddle educators.
CCAF counselor, Allen Boettcher, said the initial counseling takes only 10-15 minutes, and afterward the member can request tuition assistance through the Air Force Virtual Education Center in just a few moments.
"The CCAF is the largest community college in the world, in both enrollments and graduates," said Boettcher.
According to the counselor, there are up to 60 universities that will take a CCAF degree, which means only 20 additional classes are needed to earn a bachelor's degree once the CCAF degree is completed.
Boettcher also reflected on members who will soon separate or retire from the Air Force.
"To be competitive in today's job market you need to have a degree," he said. "Sometimes the experience doesn't always matter, but the degree certainly does."
CCAF serves enlisted members by partnering with more than 90 affiliated Air Force schools, 82 worldwide education service offices, and more than 1,500 civilian academic institutions.
To learn more about earning your CCAF, please go to http://www.au.af.mil/au/ccaf/, or visit the Hill AFB Education Center, Building 383, or call 801-777-2710.