WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Growing up in foster homes left me with few educational opportunities and options. Struggling to find work, I enlisted in the Air Force in February 1996 and began my career at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.
I was eager to learn and get in school, but I found that many noncommissioned officers said, "You don't need a degree" and "Be an Airman, not a full-time college student." Listening to the advice of those NCOs, I did little studying and put education on the back-burner. However, after moving to Colorado Springs, I quickly changed my perspective.
I began working with cadets at the Air Force Academy, and I saw what an impact education made on their lives and how important it was to the bigger Air Force. So, as a senior Airman, I enrolled in school and began taking classes.
I had recently married and was working 12-15-hour night shifts. That made school difficult, but I managed to knock out three classes. However, with one class left for my Community College of the Air Force degree in Allied Health Science, I was tasked for a four-month deployment to Saudi Arabia with follow-on orders to Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
Scott AFB was a great assignment; however, my wife flew aero-vac and was deployed non-stop, and we had just had a brand new baby boy. I tried scheduling classes, but it was difficult. So I just stopped going.
Fortunately, I got lucky and was selected for instructor duty and forced to complete my last CCAF class in order to stay in the Air Force and move to Sheppard AFB, Tex. It was tough, but I made it work. I had to juggle coordinating babysitters and working long shifts, but I finally finished that last algebra class to earn my CCAF degree.
After attending my first college graduation, I felt like I had accomplished something. That day something happened -- I became hungry for education.
Once I was assigned to Sheppard, I earned my second CCAF degree in Instructor Technology and Military Science and continued working on my bachelor's degree. It was no easy task, but my efforts paid off, and in 2007 I earned my bachelor's degree in education, graduating with honors. Immediately after receiving my BA, I decided to continue my education, and in 2008, I completed my master's degree in education, graduating summa cum laude.
I credit my educational success to that first CCAF degree. I'm eager to promote education, and I've applied for and was accepted into a doctoral program. I began taking classes while deployed to Kuwait. People think I'm crazy, and I've been called an Air Force student; however, all of my schoolwork has been done after hours and never to the detriment of the Air Force. These comments only increase my motivation to mentor our great Airmen on the importance of CCAF and advanced education. I tell them, if a foster kid from Detroit can be a doctoral candidate, they can do anything. And it all started with my CCAF.