INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
A wise man once said, “The future of the world is in the classroom today.” In today’s society, knowledge is power, and every airman in the Air Force is empowered to seek higher education through education benefits.
However, for some stationed at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, factors such as distance, manpower, and a lack of in-classroom opportunities can make getting a degree a daunting task.
Luckily, the Incirlik Education Office staff understands these unique challenges and is ready to arm Airmen with the tools for success.
“When you come to me with a question, my job is to figure out your professional goals and go from there,” said Gerald K. Scott, education counselor. “What really drives everything with education is your goal. Someone else’s goal may be different from another’s, so we’re here to tailor a plan to fit the individual.”
When considering a service member’s schooling needs, Scott likes to begin with a simple exercise.
“Close your eyes,” said Scott. “Visualize yourself going to work every day, doing what you love. When you open them, let’s make that your goal and start down the path to reach it.”
Linda Sturgeon, another education counselor at Incirlik, also assists Airmen stationed and deployed here with their learning needs.
“Take advantage of what the CCAF has to offer,” Sturgeon said. “It’s one of the key things I like to tell everybody about. For us, it’s about getting service members to make informed decisions about their education.”
The Air Force offers programs such as tuition assistance and voluntary education programs to provide schooling, free of charge, to active duty service members. In addition, service members who have served on active duty for at least 90 days after Sept. 10, 2001, qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
This GI Bill offers a few components that are unavailable in other GI Bill programs, such as the Yellow Ribbon Program and Transfer of Entitlement Option.
Under the Yellow Ribbon Program, degree granting institutions make additional funds available for education programs without an additional charge to the GI Bill entitlement. These institutions enter an agreement with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, who matches the amount the school gives under Yellow Ribbon and pays it directly to the institution.
“It’s equally important for us to come out and do briefings within units,” Sturgeon said. “We touch on points to make sure you [the service member] gets the proper education and certificates for life after the military.”
Scott went on to say that the level of education an Airman receives can determine their career after separation or retirement from the service.
For service members, understanding educational benefits and how to apply them can make all the difference in schooling and degree programs.
“When I joined in 1982, education wasn’t as important in the world as it is now,” Scott said. “As technology and knowledge have evolved, so has the Air Force. What’s most important now for service members is to understand and prepare themselves for the competitive civilian job market.”