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Balancing Act: Managing Education
by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Austin Harvill - August 29, 2015

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AVIANO AIR FORCE BASE, Italy - Throughout a U.S. Air Force career, an Airman must learn to balance responsibilities in and out of uniform. For many, adding schoolwork while serving can be a daunting prospect.

But one Airman has found a way to not only find the time, but thrive in an educational environment.

“Once I completed my [career development course] material, I went straight to school,” said Tech. Sgt. Troy Washington, 31st Maintenance Squadron electrical/environmental NCO in charge. “I've been taking a class nonstop since I started in 2003.”

July 29, 2015 - U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Troy Washington, 31st Maintenance Squadron electrical/environmental noncommissioned officer in charge, balances work and education to reach his goals. With the help of the education center, Washington believes every Airman can reach their educational milestones. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Austin Harvill)
July 29, 2015 - U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Troy Washington, 31st Maintenance Squadron electrical/environmental noncommissioned officer in charge, balances work and education to reach his goals. With the help of the education center, Washington believes every Airman can reach their educational milestones. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Austin Harvill)

From then to now, he has EARNED his Community College of the Air Force degree, a bachelor's degree and he is a few classes short of his masters. Washington balances a wife, kids, his job on the flight line and education, and he believes everyone has the ability to do the same.

He doesn't think his success comes from any extraordinary passion or abilities, but instead from simple goal setting and planning. He said continuing education throughout a career is the key to keeping school as a priority on par with other responsibilities.

“We should always put our service before self, but that doesn't mean we have to lose ourselves while serving,” said Washington. “I started early in my career to establish education as a fundamental part of my lifestyle. Even if you are two or 10 years into your career, integrating school is paramount to a learning lifestyle.”

Regardless of when or how an Airman fits in school, Washington said getting to class is half the battle, because having a long term goal can keep a student focused on the future.

“Knowing where you want to be in 15 years and reminding yourself why you started school will help you through busy months,” said Washington. “Your end goal should be flexible enough to allow for occasional interruptions.”

To keep missed semesters at bay, Washington suggests looking at school strategically.

“With the end goal in mind, I still handle school one semester at a time, because I know a lot more about the next six months than the next 10 years,” said Washington. “I talk with people who have been through my degree program and prioritize my schoolwork based on my job schedule. If I know half of the squadron will deploy next semester, I make sure I take an easier class.”

For those times when the unexpected happens, especially during deployments, Washington said it is all about time management and willpower.

“If you work 12-hour shifts, you need to knock out a little work here and there,” said Washington. “Work with your shop and see if there is a time to study.”

Washington said other responsibilities outside of work could hinder educational goals, but just like at work, support elements exist. For him, that means his family.

“My family knows education is important to me, so we work together to find the time I need to study,” said Washington. “My wife and I communicate so we can share the duties at home. Sometimes a busy week plus homework demands long nights, but knowing my family is helping makes a big difference.”

Regardless of how well-prepared a student might be, Washington still believes every balancing act falls on one thing – devotion.

“You have to want those goals,” said Washington. “There is so much support out there to get you on the right track, but all of it depends on willpower. If you can keep turning in homework, remaining flexible and pushing through those late nights, those goals will absolutely pay off.”

By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Austin Harvill
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2015

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