The Misadventures of Airman Snuffy McDufflebag and Master Sgt. Johnny Mentor

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Wow, I can't believe my sons will be in first and second grade this year at Incirlik Elementary and my daughter will be attending pre-K classes. Man, where does the time go! All the time I've spent getting my children ready for the upcoming school year, got me to thinking -- Why did I join the Air Force 10 years ago? 

Was it to travel the world - Well, I've already done that, Iraq, Saudi, Turkey, Korea, Japan, Hawaii, Texas, I've seen it all. Maybe it was to serve my country? - Not really, because I really don't like people or cities associated with football teams in the NFC East that are not Dallas Cowboy fans. (2006 season Super Bowl champs, deal with it.) Maybe it was to follow in my family's footsteps? - No, they all joined the Army! O.K., I've digressed enough! 

No, like a lot of people I joined to further my education. Now motivated and determined to get started on my education, I headed off to find my good friend, Master Sgt. Johnny Mentor. He has his master's degree in the sociology and I knew he could help me get started on my degree. 

I called over to his office and Airman Snuffy McDufflebag answered. He told me in a sad, quiet tone that Sergeant Mentor had gone to the finance office. I could tell by the sound of his voice something was going down and I was almost afraid to ask, but I couldn't resist. I've heard so many stories about this kid second hand and now I had the habitual line stepper himself on the phone, so I couldn't pass up the chance to hear the madness from the horse's mouth. 

"Is something bothering you, Airman McDufflebag? Anything you want to talk about?"
"Well, answered Snuffy. "You know it's not like me to ever do anything wrong Sergeant Jefferson, and most of the time I am a model Airman who exemplifies the Air Force core values of Intimacy First, Serving Me, and Eloquence in all I do, but I kind of made a little mistake. I might not have taken college as serious as I should have." 

While I wasn't surprised that Snuffy did not know what the core values were as I had heard about his previous exploits, I decided to humor him and listen to his tale of woe.
Snuffy said last year he decided that he would get started on his college degree. He always wanted to be a molecular biologist with a minor in child psychology (You want him working with your children don't you?) and Sergeant Mentor was eager to help him. 

Sergeant Mentor was so exited to help Snuffy do something positive that he decided to call the education office at 676-3211 to set up an appointment. He also went with him to education office (open from 7:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday in Building 2750A) to see how Snuffy could get cracking on his degree. 

The education office staff told them about Air Force Tuition Assistance. They said TA is an important quality-of-life program, which provides 100 percent of tuition and fees for courses taken by active-duty personnel. The program is one of the most frequent reasons given for enlisting and re-enlisting in the Air Force. The maximum amount paid for tuition assistance is 100 percent of tuition and fees, not to exceed: $250 a semester credit hour, or $166 a quarter credit hour, and $4,500 per fiscal year. That boils down to a maximum of $750 for a three-semester-hour course. If a class costs more than that, an Airman can also apply for further assistance thorugh other programs. 

Snuffy was told he must apply for TA online using the Air Force Virtual Education Center. This must be done through the Air Force Portal at There are six steps to completing the online TA request. First, select the reason for request, second, select the school name (civilian institution), third, enter term dates, next, enter the course information, then enter the registration fees and finally verify TA information and submit the request. 

They said after Snuffy's request was approved he would receive notification of his approved TA form. The approved TA form will have both the approval official's and your digitally signed signatures. He was then told that he must send a copy of the approved TA form to his school. 

Snuffy was warned that Airmen will be required to pay back TA received if an Airman disenrolled/withdrew from the course after the school cut-off date for disenrollments/withdraws and school received monies for the course; or receives an "F" or "Incomplete" for the course; or an enlisted person separates prior to the course completion date or officer separates prior to fulfilling one-year service obligation from the course completion date. 

Snuffy said Sergeant Mentor added that for active-duty military members getting an education makes a difference for promotion boards and recognition. With an increasing number of enlisted getting associate's, bachelor's and even master's degrees, those who aren't thinking about school might get left behind. And without at least an associate's degree, chances of becoming a senior noncommissioned officer decrease. 

And after retirement, an advanced degree can help in the search for a good-paying job. Similarly, officers may need a master's degree if they expect to climb the rank ladder.
"Wow!," I thought, I didn't know if I was more impressed by the Tuition Assistance program or the fact that Snuffy remembered all that information off the top of his head. Anyway I asked him to continue. 

Snuffy said after much soul searching and hearing how good the Turkish language class was at the University of Maryland located on Incirlik, he decided apply for TA and take Mehmet Birbiri's, popular class. (You guys know Mehmet, you met him when you got here, he has the Ask Mehmet column in the Tip of the Sword, he finished fourth in the Tour de France don't act like you know who finished fourth; for all you know it was Mehmet!) Snuffy then abruptly told me that Sergeant Mentor was back and he had to go. 

After hanging up the phone, (since we work in the same office), I walked over to Mehmet's cubicle and asked if he knew Airman McDufflebag. "Yes," Mehmet sneered. 

"He is the worst student I've ever had. He only came to class once and when I would see him around the base and ask him why he missed my class he said 'I was too drunk to drive to school;' 'The ghosts in my dorm kept me up all night,' 'I'm too fat to get into my school pants,' 'My roommate accidentally fell asleep next to wet cement in our dorm area. His foot fell in and we couldn't get it out,' I finally said (he spit) and was done with him. I gave him a "G" because he deserved something lower than an "F."" 

Now I knew why Sergeant Mentor was at finance. Because Snuffy had failed Mehmet's class he had to pay back his TA. Wow, Snuffy just can't get it right and if anyone needs to be educated it is him. Only Snuffy could anger Mehmet. 

Well, I learned we must take the Air Force's basic educational foundation to the next level and be relentless in our continued pursuit to become knowledge-enabled Airmen. I learned that All Total Force Airmen have the opportunity to incorporate higher education into their development, through Air Force sponsored degrees, the Community College of the Air Force, or with tuition assistance for civilian institutions. 

In the words of former President John F. Kennedy, we must "... think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation." I can't wait to get started on my education, but as for Airman McDufflebag. Well, we know habitual line steppers never learn.