RAF MILDENHALL, England --
Every Airman has ideas about what they would like to achieve in their career, both during and after active duty.
No matter if they want to be a pilot or a police officer, education is a big factor in helping an individual accomplish the goals they set for themselves. One of the best places to receive the education needed to be successful is, unsurprisingly, the base education office.
An arm of the 100th Force Support Squadron, the office is staffed with counselors, educational technicians and test proctors who are committed to the success of Airmen. If given an idea of what someone wants to achieve, they’re able to provide guidance on how best to help that person meet their educational objectives.
“We have people who really want to help others learn and who see the value of education,” said Rachael Cossingham, 100th FSS education and training chief. “They’re passionate about what they do and want to make sure people are on the right path to reach their desired goals.”
Monthly briefings on in-demand topics are one of the many resources the staff offers Airmen. Attending these briefings is often the first step in a journey toward reaching one’s goals.
“Every Tuesday we have a Tuition Assistance briefing, and once a month we have a commissioning briefing,” explained Cossingham. “We are also offering ‘Lunch and Learn’ briefings at least once a month. Folks can eat lunch while watching presentations on a variety of topics such as the Community College of the Air Force or the process of choosing a school.”
In addition to providing briefings, the staff can also assist Airmen in obtaining Tuition Assistance for classes they would like to take. There are several steps required before Airmen can utilize this benefit.
“Airmen who would like to use Tuition Assistance must first come to a TA briefing or talk to a counselor about the process, rules and eligibility requirements,” said Cossingham. “They also have to have an education goal in place. Each class they take that utilizes TA must correspond to a required course in their degree plan. We have computers here for individuals to use so that they can come in for assistance if they are not sure how to apply. We’re here to walk them through the process.”
Airmen are free to use Tuition Assistance with schools both on base and off base. They can even study a subject unrelated to their career field within the Air Force.
“If Airmen are going to use Tuition Assistance, they must choose a school that has signed an agreement with the Department of Defense,” remarked Cossingham. “University of Maryland Global Campus, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and University of Oklahoma, all on-base schools, are here for convenience, but members aren’t limited to that. With the increasing popularity of online schools, it’s really great for people overseas because they can stick with a school instead of having to change every time they move. There’s also a misconception that they have to stay in their career field and that TA will only cover something that is related to their current job. That’s not true.”
In addition to helping Airmen who are staying in the military, the education office can also provide separating Airmen resources that will smooth their transition into civilian life.
“We offer a workshop called ‘Accessing Higher Education.’ Airmen can sign up after attending the Transition Assistance Program. It covers topics such as choosing a school, accreditation, choosing a major and the admissions process,” said Cossingham. “It’s a two-day workshop that we recommend for individuals who are planning to attend school after retiring or separating.”
The education office not only will point separating Airmen toward resources they offer in-house, but they can also direct them to broader military-wide opportunities. One such program the education office can help individuals apply for is the Department of Defense SkillBridge program, which is intended to set up separating service members with internships that will result in future employment.
“In this program, people can use their last six months of active-duty service in conjunction with their terminal leave to work an internship or apprenticeship with a civilian company,” said Cossingham. “They can’t be paid by the internship or apprenticeship, but they are still getting active-duty pay and benefits. It gives them the opportunity to leave the service earlier, learn some skills and make some contacts. The hope is that there will be placement with the company once they are done with the internship.”
The education office is here to help, and they aren’t limited in how they deliver information about the programs and resources they have available.
“We would love to come out to squadrons and provide either briefings or counseling, anything that people need. We understand not everyone can come into the education office because of their work schedules, so we’re hoping to get on calendars for training days and commander’s calls so that we can tell people what we offer,” emphasized Cossingham. “Our goal is to make things easier, take obstacles away rather than create them. We want to see people succeed.”