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New program brings college classes to Kentucky Air Guard Base

A bronze reproduction of Auguste Rodin's famous sculpture, "The Thinker," marks the entrance to Grawemeyer Hall on the University of Louisville's Belknap Campus in Louisville, Ky. U of L is planning to offer a college-level course in public speaking at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in January. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

A bronze reproduction of Auguste Rodin's famous sculpture, "The Thinker," marks the entrance to Grawemeyer Hall on the University of Louisville's Belknap Campus in Louisville, Ky. U of L is planning to offer a college-level course in public speaking at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in January. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Whether starting their college educations at the ground level or jumping in mid-stream to finish their course work, Airmen at the 123rd Airlift Wing now have an opportunity to complete their associate's degrees on base.

Thanks to the efforts of Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Moore, the Kentucky Air National Guard's state command chief master sergeant, and Chief Master Sgt. Ray Dawson, 123rd Airlift Wing command chief master sergeant, members of the wing can earn the college credits they need to complete a Community College of the Air Force degree.

Through the implementation of a wing-wide civilian education database envisioned by Dawson, local officials discovered that many Airmen have degrees that go beyond the community college level -- as advanced as master's degrees, in fact.

Others, however, have yet to earn a two-year degree from the Community College of the Air Force, which is going to become a requirement for promotion to E-8 or E-9 starting Oct. 1, 2015.

"The Air Guard, as a whole, is comprised of a very well-educated group in their respective civilian educations," explained Dawson. "For many of them to complete their CCAF degree, the only requirement may be to have their official transcripts added to their official military personnel record.

"Some members may need a few classes that, traditionally, a civilian college would give credit for but the CCAF does not," he continued. "Our goal is to reach out to our Airmen in both of these situations to help them complete the degree process."

To that end, the wing is partnering with local universities to offer general education courses on base that will be accepted by the CCAF.

The first class to be offered, Introduction to Public Speaking, fulfills a three-credit CCAF requirement and will be offered here by the University of Louisville starting in January, Dawson said.

Official registration through the university begins Nov. 17, and can be accomplished with the assistance of Master Sgt. Zakiya Taylor, who is on temporary assignment in the Base Education and Training Office during the work week.

U of L will only offer the course if there are at least 12 participants, Dawson said, so interested personnel should contact Taylor as soon as possible for registration details.

State tuition assistance is available for the course for Airmen who do not already have a bachelor's degree. However, the deadline for applying for assistance is Oct. 1. Applications can be submitted online at https://ky.ngb.army.mil/TuitionStudent. Taylor can assist members with advanced degrees in obtaining tuition assistance through other sources.

The new program marks the first time that a class taught by a university is being offered on base, according to Dawson. He hopes it will be the first of many.

"Our members work so hard to meet the state and federal mission requirements levied upon them while additionally balancing individual improvement expectations," he said. "Being a part of the strongest Air Force in the world comes with a price. We believe that if we can help our Airmen get the resources they need to complete their college degrees, we are providing them with additional tools that will without a doubt serve them well for the rest of their lives."