Enlisted members hit the books at AFIT

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Scott Farrow
  • Air University Public Affairs
The secretary of the Air Force's initiative to mold a technically educated force is paying off for the eight senior noncommissioned officers selected to pursue master's degrees at the Air Force's premier graduate school.

The enrollment of enlisted members into the Air Force Institute of Technology, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, fulfills one part of Dr. James Roche's vision of equipping "airmen and a vibrant civilian workforce with science, technology and systems-engineering skills."

"We've experienced program failures in the past because of inadequacies in these fields," Roche said.

The senior NCOs all come from the communications and information career field and study in residence at the campus. Five of the students are studying computer science, two are studying electrical engineering, and one is pursuing a degree in information systems management.

The NCOs attending AFIT include Chief Master Sgt. Donald J. Clabaugh, 412th Flight Test Squadron, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.; Senior Master Sgt. Stephanie E. Carroll, 78th Communications Squadron, Robins AFB, Ga.; Senior Master Sgt. Francis Szabo, 786th CS, Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Master Sgt. Charlie Cruz, 61st CS, Los Angeles AFB, Calif.; Master Sgt. James B. Kuntzelman, 60th CS, Peterson AFB, Colo.; Master Sgt. Edward A. Mathews, Air Force Personnel Center, Randolph AFB, Texas; Master Sgt. Duane C. Sorgaard, Air Force Space Command, Peterson AFB; and Master Sgt. Daniel E. Swayne, AFPC.

"We welcome the addition of the enlisted corps to our family," said Col. Michael Heil, AFIT commandant. "AFIT graduate degrees have allowed for relevant, world-class research and education on critical Air Force and Defense Department issues. Our current graduates are making tremendous differences across the realm of specialties. The addition of these enlisted students can only further enhance the capabilities of the Air Force. I'm excited to see the results of this positive step."

The students of AFIT's Class of 2004 also anticipate taking what they have learned at the school back to their bases and work centers.

"This is an amazing opportunity for enlisted members to better ourselves and our Air Force," Sorgaard said. "As we gain professional technical knowledge, we also gain the ability to provide better technical advice to our commanders and supervisors in our future units."

Joining the Air Force enlisted members at AFIT are six Marine Corps NCOs, who will pursue specializations in information assurance.

"This is ground breaking," said Gunnery Sgt. Kelvin Scott. "I am glad to see that our senior military leaders recognize the enlisted asset and have made the necessary planning steps for the future."

While the NCOs will graduate from AFIT with graduate degrees and valuable knowledge and skills, what they bring to the school cannot be measured.

"They bring a tremendous experience base to the student body," said Dr. Richard Raines, director of AFIT's Center for Information Security Education and Research. "This experience is invaluable and offers a great deal of real-world focus to their technical education. They also bring to the table exceptional opportunities for interaction with our junior officers. These interactions allow our young officers to gain Air Force insights that may not be available in other assignments."

AFIT is the Air Force's graduate school of engineering and management and its institution for technical professional continuing education. Since resident degrees were first granted in 1956, more than 15,000 graduate and 300 doctorate of philosophy degrees have been awarded by AFIT.

People selected for the enlisted AFIT program must agree to serve an additional three years on active duty following graduation. Degree programs for senior NCOs will be resident-only. Future quotas will be based on degree-program availability. (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)