Education opens doors

  • Published
  • By Maj. David P. Goode
  • 709th Munitions Squadron commander
Let me say up front there are very few things I'm as passionate about as education, whether it be an advanced degree, a vocational course, or reading a book to understand the world around you.

Education opens doors and serves as a catalyst for one to improve their lot in life and grow as a person. I recently hit my 20-year point in the Air Force, which tends to make you retrospective about your journey, while shifting your focus to those coming behind you.

I was raised in a small town in the south with a population of approximately 2,000. Growing up, most of the parents of my generation were blue-collar mill-workers with a dedication to family and work ethic second-to-none; however, we lacked opportunity.

Many either followed their parents into the paper mill, a good respectable vocation in its own right, or joined the Army. Rarely did anyone join the Air Force, and few had considered a career as an officer. I certainly had little aspirations for college, as evidenced by the fact that I never took a college preparatory course, nor did I take the SAT or ACT exams. At 19-years old, I had no career aspirations, little education and a murky path to the future.

While working as a laborer for a company that moved household goods for the local Army installation, I took an interest in military service, not for patriotic reasons or a desire to serve (these came later), but more so with a desire to eat. I had always been somewhat drawn to the Air Force while looking through my dad's picture albums of his service as an Airman 3rd Class during Vietnam, and the feeling of belonging to something "bigger" while trying on his old service coat.

Nevertheless, I had no intention of joining until faced with the prospects of unemployment.
Midway through my enlistment, I made the decision to make a career of the Air Force. My supervisor told me that I would need my Community College of the Air Force degree if I planned to progress in the Air Force. I reluctantly signed up for night classes at the local university to cover my remaining electives, and my life changed at that point. I took a class and earned an A, so I took another, and so on. This pattern continued until I had my CCAF in short order. I decided to continue my education and pursue a Bachelor's degree, still unsure if I was capable. At the end of my four-year enlistment, I cautiously left the Air Force and the security it provided, so I could attend a brick-and-mortar university to complete my Bachelor's degree. No one in my family, and very few from my hometown had graduated college, and I wanted to challenge myself.

Through the GI Bill, an Air Force ROTC pay, and an academic scholarship, I was able to earn a degree, something I would have never dreamed of just a few years before. Upon graduation, I commissioned and returned to active duty with a different perspective and have served every day since with a sense of gratitude for the opportunities that education has provided.

Throughout the years my desire for education has grown and I pursue every educational opportunity available and read every book I can get my hands on. Education has remained a passion since taking that first class for my CCAF and it has changed my life in ways unimaginable to that 19 year-old with little aspirations so many years ago. The Air Force provides you with endless opportunities, but it's up to you to take advantage of those. Your Air Force career will come and go, but your education is something that you own and it can never be taken from you.

I encourage you to challenge yourself and not let the opportunity that education provides pass you by.