Air Force; Opening doors to higher education

  • Published
  • By Maj. Marie T. Harnly
  • 39th Civil Engineer Squadron commander

Growing up in a single parent and low income household, the idea of a higher education seemed out of reach for me.  The tuition, books and fees were not affordable for my mom, and the prospect of being surrounded by incredibly intelligent individuals overwhelmed me.  By a stroke of fate, a few of my veteran family members suggested the idea of serving in the Air Force, which provided opportunities to make a difference in the world and attend college.  Looking back—three bachelor’s degrees and three master’s degrees later— I am still in shock of what I have accomplished and think about how fortunate I am to have amazing people in my life who helped put me on such a path.

The opportunities afforded to me by the Air Force, helped me fulfill my life’s passions and become an engineer.  The knowledge I gained during my time at Stanford University allowed me to build clean water systems, schools, security infrastructure and buildings across the globe for individuals in need.  I have also been blessed to spend four years of my active duty time in various graduate schools, expanding my mind in order to better serve the Airmen I lead.  My time at the Air Force Institute of Technology, Harvard and the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies propelled me to think strategically about problems and view the mission from a unique perspective. 

None of this would have been possible without mentors that saw something inside of me, a drive to continuously improve myself, and investment the Air Force made in me.  We miss all of the shots that we don’t take, so chase your educational dreams…and give it your all.  The Air Force has so many different programs that we can attend.  You never know; you could end up on a fantastic journey of learning where you grow and develop as an individual, meet driven people interested in public service, and gain knowledge that sets you on a completely different path in life.


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