JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
Several Joint Base San Antonio Airmen are furthering their education and enhancing their military careers through an Air Force program that allows them to take courses toward a college degree.
The Community College of the Air Force, or CCAF, is a federally-chartered academic institution serving approximately 270,000 active-duty, National Guard, and Reserve Component enlisted members of the U.S. Air Force and Space Force. It offers classes with 112 affiliated Air Force and Space Force schools and has 300 Air Force education service offices and centers throughout the world, making CCAF the world’s largest community college system.
Annually, CCAF awards more than 22,000 Associate in Applied Science for 71 programs. The college program is optional and voluntary for Airmen to pursue.
Torricellus Mitchell, JBSA-Lackland Air Force Education Center education services specialist, said enlisted Air Force service members are automatically enrolled in CCAF once they are in technical school.
Airmen can earn college credits for courses they take in technical school, and after they complete technical school, they can expand on those credits to earn an associate degree through CCAF, which takes 64 semester hours to complete, according to Mitchell.
The program gives Air Force service members the opportunity to earn a college degree based on their job or specialty within the Air Force.
Mitchell said the CCAF program provides Airmen with the opportunity to obtain a college education while serving their country.
“Airmen are afforded a head start in their college education by both learning their skill within the Air Force and learning their craft,” Mitchell said. “By doing so, their training courses earn college credit. As they are continuing to learn about their job, they have the opportunity to use tuition assistance to help pay for those courses to complete their degree."
Mitchell said CCAF provides degree programs for most specialties and jobs in the Air Force, from force support to human resources specialist to logistics.
He said Air Force Education Centers located at JBSA-Lackland, -Fort Sam Houston and -Randolph provide guidance, support and counseling to CCAF enrolled enlisted members on what programs are available to them, the requirements needed to complete each degree program, and financial options available, including tuition assistance, Veterans Affairs benefits, Montgomery GI Bill, Post 9/11 GI Bill, scholarships and grants.
Master Sgt. James Sturgis, 802nd Force Support Squadron first sergeant at JBSA-Lackland, earned an associate degree in human resources through CCAF this year. He plans to apply the knowledge and skills he learned to be more effective at his job.
“There were a lot of different aspects of the requirements to fulfill a degree that I can apply directly to my job,” Sturgis said. “Everything from communications to cross cultural leadership, personnel, the expanding and understanding of different personnel personalities, to how to effectively lead.”
As the 802nd FSS first sergeant, Sturgis is a key enlistment advisor to the squadron commander and senior leaders, and he works in many areas related to personnel, including maintaining discipline, standards, warfare and personal orientation.
In addition, he provides guidance for administrative actions and assists with performance reports, awards, decorations and promotions, and professional military education.
Sturgis said this, his second associate degree from CCAF, is helping further his education, and he plans to complete a master’s degree in communication and leadership. Earlier in his 16-year Air Force career, he earned an associate degree in aviation maintenance and technology, which allowed him to pursue and complete a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in computer and military sciences.
Sturgis encourages other military members to further their education and knowledge, but it is up to them to decide if and how to set and meet their education goals.
“Nobody is going to make you do it, you have to have some type of desire to continue your education,” he said.
Mitchell said the CCAF program is flexible, as students can take classes online or in-person. Students can take courses through accredited Air Force training or through an accredited civilian institution approved by the Department of Defense and through guidance by an Air Force education office or service center.
The CCAF program is overseen by Air University, based out of Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, which oversees the full spectrum of Air Force education programs, from pre-commissioning to the highest levels of professional military education, including degree granting and professional continuing education for officers, enlisted and civilian personnel.
Through the Air University Associate to Bachelor's Program, or ABC, CCAF graduates who have completed their associate degree are allowed to transfer their college credits to participating higher education institutions, who will count those credits toward a bachelor’s degree program.
The JBSA members who received their CCAF degrees this fall, including Sturgis, were recognized during a ceremony utilizing COVID-19 protocols Nov. 4 at the Bob Hope Theater at JBSA-Lackland.
For information on CCAF, contact the Air Force Education Centers at JBSA-Lackland, 210-671-8710; JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, 210-221-0852; or JBSA-Randolph, 210-652-5964. Additional information on CCAF is available at https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Barnes/CCAF/.