By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely | 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Staying physically fit is critical for those serving in the armed forces; however, staying mentally fit is just as important, which is why the Air Force offers education benefits for its Airmen.
To help Airmen earn their education, the 50th Space Wing is partnered with Colorado Christian University, Pikes Peak Community College and Webster University.
Colorado Christian University offers courses at Schriever, Webster University and Pikes Peak Community College offer courses at Peterson AFB, Colorado.
Currently, CCU teaches an accelerated math course at Schriever once a quarter. The course takes four weeks to complete and there are plans to bring more classes here.
Additionally, most universities have an academic or veterans advisor who can help with the process of enrolling and understanding U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs educational benefits.
“While you’re active duty, there are a lot of benefits available to you,” said Lauren Clark, 50th Force Support Squadron education services specialist. “The big one is tuition assistance. Airmen are entitled to $4,500 for the fiscal year to go toward their education.”
However, to use their benefits, Airmen must have earned the skill level of journeyman, which is earned after an Airman completes on-the-job training and career development courses, receive supervisor approval, have no pending issues or concerns, and enroll at an accredited university.
“There [are] a ton of schools that are approved that have signed a [Memorandum of Understanding] with the department of defense,” Clark said. “The listing can be found on the TA Decide website.”
TA Decide can be accessed by going to https://www.dodmou.com/TADECIDE/.
To further their careers, many Airmen enroll in the Community College of the Air Force, a regionally accredited institution built for active duty Airmen. The CCAF is the only program of its kind in the Department of Defense.
“A CCAF degree is an applied science associates [degree],” Clark said. “Airmen are encouraged to pursue their CCAF degree because they earn credit from their military training that goes toward the degree. It can also transfer to other universities.”
Airmen can earn credits from technical school training (depending on training and degree), making earning a CCAF degree a streamlined process.
“Education is your door to the future; not only with career advancement in the military, but also for when you separate [or retire],” Clark said. “We’re here to not only help Airmen establish their goals and navigate the system to reach their goals, but also to make sure everybody is aware of all the benefits they’re entitled.”
If an Airman believes they are already proficient in certain coursework, they can enroll in its corresponding College-Level Examination Program test, a free option for Airmen.
“There’s CLEPs and (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests), [DSSTs] are available to service members,” she said. “Both are college level credits that you can receive just by taking an end of course exam without having to actually take the course.”
Service members have the option to take either test for free while serving on active duty.
Airmen can also able to use the Air Force Credentialing Opportunities On Line, that allows Airmen to apply for up to $4,500 toward a certificate or license.
“What getting your education shows is a commitment,” said Jim Driscoll, 50th Force Support Squadron Force Development flight chief. “It shows a commitment to bettering yourself, caring about the mission by making your mind stronger and it shows that you’re dedicated because of the leadership and communication skills you learn. Earning an education makes stronger and better Airmen for the force.”
Airmen are also able to use post-separation career development benefits such as the Montgomery and Post 9/11 GI Bills.
The Montgomery GI Bill requires two years of active duty service and for an applicant to have at least a high school diploma or GED. Veterans receive up to $61,000 to pay for 36 months (or eight semesters) of schooling. People who are enrolled in the Montgomery GI Bill program have 10 years upon separation to use their benefits. The Montgomery GI Bill does not pay for housing or supplies.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill can cover up to 100% of tuition and will pay for housing based off the cost of living of the schools location. Additionally, veterans can receive $1,000 per year to pay for school supplies. If a service member separated before Jan. 1, 2013, they have 15 years to use their benefits. However, if an Airman separated after Jan. 1, 2013, their benefits will not expire.
“You’ve earned your education benefits, come capitalize on them,” Driscoll said. “Education never ends. Once you get it, they can never take it away — and believe me, a lot can be taken — but your education is yours for life.”
The Schriever Force Development Flight hosts multiple TA briefings monthly. Airmen must attend the briefing to receive their benefits.
To sign-up for a TA brief or for any questions regarding education benefits, call the education services office at 719-567-2043.