Pursuing path to personal, professional progress

  • Published
  • By Anthony Woitalla
  • 338th Training Squadron
Just more than two years ago, I started a journey to better myself and my career. I wanted to attain my master's degree and began to evaluate the options available. I looked at a number of factors, including tuition assistance options, the cost of the degree, benefits of the differing programs and the flexibility of online courses versus the classroom setting of traditional offerings. Air University master's degree program was a perfect fit for me. It's been demanding, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, AU offers an online master's degree program for Air Force majors and civilian equivalents. It meets educational needs while accommodating today's high operations tempo.

As a Department of Defense civilian and traditional reservist, my time is often spent on the road. Because of deployments with the Hurricane Hunters or senior leader conferences, I needed a program that was flexible enough to meet my commitments. A traditional classroom approach wasn't a good option for me.

When evaluating online courses, one thing kept coming to mind -- the cost. Tuition assistance wouldn't cover all my expenses of a typical online master's degree program. I'd have to pay out-of-pocket expenses of $1,300 to $1,500 for each course that was not job-related. Then, I came across the Air Command and Staff College online master's program. I looked into opportunities for GS-12 civilians and discovered the joint warfare concentration with benefits no other program from a civilian university could offer.

First, the program is 100 percent tuition free. There's no chance of incurring a cost for a course that wasn't directly related to my current position. Books, however, are at my expense. By being frugal and buying used books online, I've yet to spend more than $50 dollars for a course. The second benefit of this curriculum is that you earn civilian intermediate developmental education credit that gives you an edge when competing for promotion.

After considering these benefits, I decided this program was the best way to spend my time to reach a personal goal of a master's degree, increase my understanding of leadership and improve my promotion potential within the DOD.

As I contemplated enrollment, I figured the worst thing that could happen was that I wouldn't be accepted into the program. However, if I didn't apply, that was going to happen anyway -- I had nothing to lose. I did the required paperwork, obtained endorsements from leadership and submitted the application. It's a very competitive program and I wasn't accepted the first around, but I made the waiting list. One month later, I was accepted and began the course work.

Eleven courses are required to complete the degree. Students may take one or two courses during each eight-week semester. At the end of each semester, students participate in an online discussion to analyze topics, do a mini research paper with citations or submit a PowerPoint briefing.

The course I'm currently taking is joint air and space operations.

In Week 1, we learned about the Joint Force Air and Space Component Commander and the Joint Air and Space Operations Center. Through reading Air Force Doctrine and video
briefings, I understood the JFACC's role and how the JAOC supports the war effort. After learning the material, I had to choose a discussion question to answer. My two options were:

Question A: One of the enduring questions which haunts the U.S. military establishment is the continued use of the airman's tenet of "centralized control and decentralized execution." Although this is now a part of Air Force doctrine, critics charge that it is too cumbersome for the dispersed irregular warfare which we face today. Do you agree or disagree? What is the future of this concept? Will it be more or less useful in the future? Can its shortcomings be answered by the Air Component Coordination Element?

Question B: In this lesson you have explored the roles and responsibilities of the JFACC as well as the basic elements of the JAOC that enable the JFACC to command and  control joint air and space operations. Based on this initial exposure, which division in the JAOC, in your opinion, is most critical in supporting the JFACC's mission? Craft an argument to defend your position.

The answer must be a response of 150 to 300 words with support references. Once this is posted on the electronic bulletin board, students are required to defend their position by answering other student comments about the message. We also have to comment on the work of at least two other people, agreeing or disagreeing with applicable references. This portion is very important to solidify the information and gives an increased perspective to the material.

In Week 2, we learned about air strategy and the joint operational planning process for air. This ended with a computer simulation project about the Battle of Britain and planning the attack from the German side. Once I completed the simulation, I had to analyze what I did and how my strategy changed during simulation. Also, I had to identify which tenets of air Power I used or relied upon to finish the simulation. For my final exam in this course, I'll write a research paper using the material to analyze a current world situation or policy.

The master's degree program also includes applied warfare studies; joint planning; air, space and cyberspace power studies; leadership in warfare; regional/cultural studies; international studies; Joint Forces; the practice of command and two research/elective courses. Instructors are available through email or telephone during their established office hours. I've never had to call; instructors have provided all the assistance I needed through e-mail.

This has been a challenging program but well worth the time I've invested. I'll graduate in December with my master's degree and enhanced career opportunities for the future.

So if you're looking for a flexible low-cost master's degree program, check out ACSC's online master's program. For more information and an outline of the application process, visit http://www.au.af.mil/au/acsc/.