Student and Airman: There are a lot of options available for Airman when it comes to education

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Rudy Lopez
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Command Chief
     The wing commander's vectors can be boiled down to take care of the mission, take care of each other and take care of yourself. Working on your education hits all three of those vectors. Improving your education increases mission effectiveness and enhances your career and professional development, which in turn benefits the Air Force as a whole. I fully support an Airmen's commitment to continued education and hope all Airmen will take advantage of the programs the Fairchild Education Center offers.
     The trick is how to fit it all in. Fortunately, Airmen planning on starting a degree program have several options available from the traditional classroom to online courses.  
     The local colleges, on and off base, offer a broad range of daytime, evening and weekend courses based on specific degree plans and student enrollment. If you're planning to take a class in the local area, that can be done either after or during duty hours. If your class is during duty hours, you must get approval from your supervisor and make up the time you missed by either coming in early or staying late. For example, if you take a two-hour lunch break for your class, arrange with your supervisor to come in an hour early or stay an hour late.
     If your schedule doesn't allow you to attend traditional classes, there are online classes available 24/7. The benefits, along with no commute, is that this format is compressed, so a class that would usually take 16 weeks to complete may only take eight and get you closer to that degree in no time.
     Another option is to apply for the Air Force Special Leave of Absence Program. This program is best suited for Airmen in their second term of enlistment that are unable to attend traditional classes to complete their degree. It gives the student's commander the ability to authorize full-time schooling away from the unit for a period as short as a semester to as long as two years. To qualify for this, put together a package with a letter of explanation as to why you need to accelerate your degree completion and why work is preventing you from completing it any other way.
     There are some stipulations attached to going this route. If you qualify for the leave of absence program, you will not be eligible for basic housing allowance or tuition assistance and will be obligated to serve an additional two months for each month of absence.
     The Education Deferment Program is another tool you can use to finish your schooling. It gives students the ability to extend their current assignment to complete their degree.
     For Airmen interested in commissioning, they can apply for the Air Force Academy or Reserve Officer Training Corps. Both of these are highly competitive programs that give students the opportunity to earn their Bachelors degree. Detailed information for these options can be found at and
     Whether you're a full-time, part-time or soon-to-be student, I urge you to take advantage of these opportunities. 
     For more information, visit the Fairchild education website: