Reservists: You can get it if you really want it

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber Russell
  • 459th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
When citizens raise their right hand and swear the oath of enlistment to join the Air Force Reserve, their responsibilities multiply considerably. Reservists serve one weekend of every month and fifteen days a year. Their allegiance to their country, full-time employers and their families are equally important and juggling this balancing act can be demanding.

Reserve Airmen coming into the 459th Air Refueling Wing are aware the additional responsibility comes with valuable educational benefits and are willing to put in time and effort to pursuit higher education.

"We are seeing the new crop of Airmen is very education oriented," said Senior Master Sgt. Rose Lemp, 459 ARW chief of force development. "The reasons they've joined the Reserve are to further their education and serve their country."

Some programs are well-known, such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, a benefit program that provides educational assistance to those with qualifying active-duty service on or after September 11, 2001.

"To qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, a reservist must have at least 90 days of aggregate days on active-duty; which means you must be activated," said Lemp. "Unit Training Assemblies and Annual Tour duty days do not contribute towards the Post 9/11 GI Bill. However, time spent in Basic Military Training, technical school and seasoning training can be applied to the education benefit at 30 cumulative months of active duty orders."

See chart (right.)

The Post 9/11 GI Bill provides service members up to 36 months of education benefits, and has perks that can improve quality of life for reservists and their families.

"Reservists who have been activated have the opportunity to transfer their GI Bill to dependents," said Lemp. "Taking one in-residence class garners them Basic Allowance for Housing and a book stipend of up to $1000 per year."

If the benefits from the program fall short of needs, the Yellow Ribbon Program serves to compliment the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

For instance, students attending a Yellow Ribbon-participating private college, graduate school or a non-resident status school can receive additional funds that will not be charged to their entitlement. Participating schools can waive up to 50 percent of tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate. Additionally, Veterans Affairs will match the same amount as the institution.

Another education benefit reservists can take advantage of is Tuition Assistance.
The Air Force Reserve provides members with 100 percent TA for associates and bachelors degree programs - not to exceed $250 per semester hour, $166.67 per quarter hour, totaling $4500 annually.

Covered fees include, tuition, lab fees, enrollment fees and computer fees.
Responsibility rests on the member to log in to the Air Force Portal, go to the Air Force Virtual Education Center (AFVEC) and apply for TA seven days prior to the start date of the course they wish to have reimbursed.

"It's important to make a plan and look at the cost of your education before deciding which benefits to tap into," said Lemp. "These benefits can make the challenge of balancing priorities of reserve and civilian life worthwhile."

Reservists are also automatically enrolled in the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) when they enlist, which captures training, experience and standardized test scores.

Many schools and colleges apply military students' credit toward a degree based on training, coursework and occupational specialty.

"Some universities have joined in league with the military in support of Airmen," said Lemp, in reference to the Associate to Baccalaureate Cooperative (ABC) program.

This program directs Airmen with their CCAF degree toward participating accredited "military friendly" colleges and universities. This enables Airmen to complete a four-year degree by maximizing on CCAF credit transfers. The program allows Airmen to make the most of their military career education and training, and provides a multitude of online academic and support services for the enlisted member.

Another way to save time and money on a degree is through the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES).

There are three types of credit-by-exams under DANTES: College Level Examination Program (CLEP), Dantes Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) and Excelsior College Exams (ECE). These computer-based tests are given at the 11th Force Support Squadron building 1413, Monday - Thursday, at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The first test is free; any retests will cost and cannot be taken for 180 days.

"There is a list of all the tests available on AFVEC," said Karen Braxton, 11 FSS guidance counselor. "All service members are welcome to come in and get information as well."
All of the programs serve to accelerate service members' ability to ascend the ranks in education, and provide a better way of life in general.

"Advancing your education can set you apart from your peers and better your chances for promotion," said Master Sgt. Zola Stackhouse, 459 ARW career advisor.

The average annual earnings of individuals with a bachelor's degree are more than 75 percent higher than the earnings of high school graduates, according to Mark Schneider, American Enterprise Institute for Research vice president.

"Reservists, now is the time to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to you," said Lemp.

Lemp is a full-time active reserve technician, a parent and a traditional reservist.

"I would like for Airmen in the Reserve to pursue their educational goals and get their degrees. Don't wait until it gets too late and you have so much pressing. Make the decision to start even if it's just one class. The first class will set you on a path to your associates, bachelors and masters degrees. In six years if you decide not to re-enlist, these programs will no longer be available. If you really want it, go for it."