132d FSS Brings Home Some Historical Hardware

  • Published
  • By 2Lt Matthew T. Doyle
  • 132d Wing Public Affairs

Senior Master Sgt. Gary Burch is no stranger to receiving awards. Whether it is for Outstanding NCO of the Year or receiving various accolades for his work while deployed. It is pretty fitting that he works as the 132d Wing’s force development superintendent, helping to grow and enrich base members with as many opportunities as possible.

The most recent award that Burch accepted wasn’t a personal recognition, as he was quick to point out, but a reflection on his team members of the Base Education, Recruiting and Retention, and the members of the base.

Burch, along with Master Sgt. Jacob Parsons had the privilege of going to Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, to accept the Community College of the Air Force Education Section of the Year for the Air National Guard. Team members unable to attend the ceremony was Senior Master Sgt. Paul Havran, Technical Sgt. Stevie Sapper, Technical Sgt. Tyler Schiefen, Staff Sgt. Natalie Webster, and Airman First Class Kelly Bell.

Something even more noteworthy was that this is the 50th anniversary of the inception of the CCAF.

With the numbers that the force development/base education and training have received, it is not surprising that they would receive this recognition. The 132d Wing has been number one in the Air National Guard in the past seven years, with 599 CCAFs awarded.

“This is not something anyone does on their own; this truly was a full team effort,” Burch said. He noted that the 132d Wing had fostered a culture of education that seeks to improve a student’s skills, develop future leaders, and enhance our mission capabilities. “This award is national recognition of that pervasive culture and a testament to the education support team that provides maximized educational benefits and opportunities to our members,” Burch said.

Parsons said that the Community College of the Air Force is a unique and valuable benefit associated with service in the Air Force and Air National Guard. He enjoyed seeing how the active-duty Air Force and Air Force Reserves view the CCAF just as valuable as we do.

Parsons was honored to see the 132d Wing recognized as the CCAF Education Section of the Year. “This award solidifies that we take education seriously at the 132d Wing. We urge all members to take advantage of the numerous education assistance benefits available to them and are here to support members in their journey through higher education,” Parsons said.

“Air National Guard educational benefits are a key component in attracting and retaining the best talent in the marketplace,” Burch said. On average, learners at the 132d Wing utilize $7,000 in state and federal tuition assistance benefits annually, and the College Level Testing Program saves each student approximately $2,000. In addition to this $9,000 annual benefit, members can qualify for $14,000 to $27,000 in GI Bill benefits, which can be transferred over to an eligible spouse or dependents.

The Community College of the Air Force, through Air University accreditation, provides civilian college credit for most military courses provided through Air Force instruction.

During one’s military career at the 132d Wing, the average member will earn 76 semester hours of college credit and well over 100 semester hours if they cross-train into a new career field. In addition, new members can quickly qualify for a degree through a combination of military and civilian coursework, earning an Associate in Applied Science degree in their career specialty.

“The CCAF AAS degree can be a springboard to other educational opportunities. For example, 37% of our members have an Associate’s or Technical degree, 35% possess a Bachelor’s degree, and 11% boast a Master’s, Doctorate, or other professional degrees,” Burch said. With such a highly credentialed workforce comes increased opportunities for professional development, mentorship, and peer-to-peer on-the-job learning experiences. “Taking advantage of every educational opportunity makes you more mission capable in uniform and more marketable out of uniform,” Burch said.

If you would like to learn more about educational benefits, contact the Base Education Office at (515) 261-8536 or gary.burch.2@us.af.mil. To discuss enlistment and commissioning opportunities, contact the Recruiting and Retention Office at (515) 261-8535 or jacob.parsons@us.af.mil.