My educational journey: No excuses

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Gary Hunkins
  • 78th Force Support Squadron
When I joined the Air Force in April 1985, my goal was to do four years and return back home with a college degree. My older brother had already set the example for me when he joined the Air Force a decade earlier. His four year enlistment led to him achieving a four year degree. So, if it worked for my big brother, it should work for me. That initial game plan did not pan out. Getting married, starting a family, and working long hours were just some of the reasons that I planted in my mind as valid "excuses" for not going further in my educational journey.

It wasn't until I was in my second enlistment that I decided I would at least chip away towards my Community College of the Air Force degree, one class at a time. I took my first college class at the beginning of my second enlistment in 1989. My second class came almost three years later. Yes, once again my "excuses" delayed my educational journey.

It took another sixteen years of my own "excuses," but I finally received my first CCAF degree in Avionics Systems Technology. At that time in my career, I was a First Sergeant. With only needing one additional class, my new special duty career field allowed me the opportunity to be awarded my Human Resources Management CCAF degree. Okay, so I now had two associate degrees under my belt. At that point in my career (and age), I thought I was doing pretty well for myself -- or so I thought.

During my entire career, my wife has been extremely supportive of not just my Air Force career, but also my educational journey. Constantly, she has reminded me that she was there to support me in my pursuit. She knew that deep down I knew I would not be satisfied until I had my four year degree diploma in my hands.

In 2007, the Air Force provided me no excuse for not seriously pursuing my bachelor's degree. The Air University Associate-To-Baccalaureate Cooperative (AU-ABC) Program was established. AU-ABC was designed to help enlisted personnel with a CCAF degree obtain a bachelor's degree related to their Air Force specialty. What sold me on taking the Air Force up on this offer was that regardless of the credits I previously earned with my CCAF degree, I was guaranteed that at the very most, I would only need 60 semester hours to complete my degree. So there I was logging on to the Air Force Virtual Education Center reviewing all the degrees and their respective schools being offered to me.

There it was, right in front of me, there for the taking. No excuses! The ease of finding an applicable degree to my Air Force career, along with the guarantee of 100 percent of my CCAF degree credits being applied towards a bachelor's degree, made this path to my educational journey a no brainer. Within two months of first hearing about the AU-ABC program, I was already enrolled in a university and taking my first class. Through the support of my family, perseverance, dedication and most importantly, no more "excuses," I achieved my goal that I set out to do back when Ronald Reagan was in office. In May 2011, I received my bachelor's degree in Human Resource Development (magna cum laude) from Southwestern College.

With all of this said and done, here I am today. It may have taken me a while to realize the reasons for putting off my educational journey were not valid at all. My "excuses" were just that. I have no more excuses as I continue on with my next educational journey. As I now pursue my master's degree in Business Administration, I encourage those that I talk with to not let any excuses keep them from continuing on with their educational journey.