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Leadership Perspective: Education is key to air power

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Robert Ewers III
  • 320th Missile Squadron commander
Without a doubt, our Air Force is experiencing tighter fiscal constraints than in previous years. More than ever, our Air Force needs Airmen armed with the critical thinking skills required to generate innovative ideas and creative solutions to reduce mission costs and apply the savings toward getting the mission done.

The adaptive skills that will lead our Air Force through these tough challenges are developed through continuing education -- whether it is toward a degree from the Community College of the Air Force, undergraduate or graduate degree, a professional certification, professional military education or other development goal.

The professional and personal education our Airmen obtain help make our Air Force the most technologically advanced and capable air power in the world. In other words, education is a force multiplier -- it adds capabilities which significantly increase the combat potential of the force and enhances the probability of successful mission accomplishment.

Education exposes us to new ideas, enhances our insight and expands the boundaries of our comfort zone to where we approach problems from a new perspective. This, in turn, boosts the overall combat capability of the Air Force with new innovative solutions on how our Airmen accomplish the mission, incorporates new technologies and reshapes the battle space to our advantage.

Often, unique mission requirements, operations tempo, higher-headquarters inspection cycles, deployment rotations, base relocations and family obligations hinder the decision to pursue professional and personal education. However, many colleges and universities have used technology to better accommodate the military lifestyle and create more opportunities for Airmen to reach their development goals by delivering classroom instruction to the members via the Internet or through classrooms on Air Force installations.
With today's technology, Airmen can choose which classes to take in an on-base classroom for one-on-one interaction with the instructor or which classes to take online when flexibility is needed with work, deployment or family requirements.
The Base Education and Training Center offers educational guidance and counseling that can help identify the program or school that is right for you and your educational goals. They also offer a variety of testing services that can assist with college admission tests or earning college credit for technical and elective comprehensive subject knowledge.

As Airmen, we gain valuable knowledge, experience and discipline from our work environment. As leaders, and all Airmen are leaders, we will be called upon to solve some of the Air Force's most challenging, complex problems and under austere conditions or in difficult locations.

Leaders dedicate themselves to the ongoing, self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for personal and professional development. Education is a continuous process that started at the high standards for entry into the Air Force and it doesn't peak at any specific rank or position. It develops and shapes leaders from all ranks who can think at the tactical, operational and strategic levels, and who are ready to adapt to changing environments and who are able to overcome unknown obstacles.

Ultimately, education provides the foundation for innovation. As one former secretary of the Air Force said, we must raise the Air Force's basic educational foundation and be relentless in our pursuit to become knowledge-enabled Airmen. Flexibility may be the key to airpower, but knowledge-enabled Airmen are the key to flexibility.