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Déjà vu All Over Again

  • Published
  • By Col. Patrick Pihana
  • 18th Air Support Operations Group Commander
The famous quote from the legendary Yogi Berra came back to me as Sandy, my wife of 28 years, and I returned to Pope after 27 years of traveling the world. 

Along the way we raised two children, adopted two 11-year old Rhodesian Ridgebacks (Jake and Elwood) and rescued an old Harley. We were happy to return, a little saddle sore but older and wiser. I'll talk more about that wiser part later. 

Like Pope, some things changed in our lives, while others remained the same.
I was a brand-new staff sergeant in 1981 when we left here as newlyweds. We've both put on some years since then, and I'll admit the base probably wears it's age much better than I do (although Sandy looks just as good to me as she did back then -- can't wait to see her face when she reads this article). 

Anyway, the base landscape changed as worn-out facilities were raised, roads improved and new facilities materialized. As they say, "its all good." We continued our journey down memory lane commenting on losses, gains, reveling in good memories, while saddened by others. When we passed the site of the former base education center, I got Déjà vu and Yogi Berra's words came back to me. All of life's experiences make us wiser if we pay attention. 

So pay attention; here's where we talk about the wiser part I mentioned earlier.
Get your college degree. Whether it is through the Community College of the Air Force, an Associate's Degree, Bachelor's or Masters, get it done. Here's why. 

As you move through life, whether in the military or another path, the people who decide to select, promote, hire, fire, recognize, award or ignore your efforts to move up or out, put your resume along with the other applicants in piles -- trust me I've done this. One of the easier cuts we make when it comes to separating the wheat from the chaff is simple: one pile for applicants with degrees or some level of college education, and the rest go into the other pile which the sorter will get to later. The rationale is simple to any military veteran. As a member of the military you see another uniform and accept a certain level of commonality that exists between you and your counterpart. Traits like self-discipline, sacrifice, motivation -- coupled with basic military knowledge and experiences -- establish a level of understanding, a common bond and some level of mutual acceptance. 

An employer or selection board sees those same traits apparent in a college education and shortens the selection process by putting your resume in the select pile. No guarantees, but if you make the first cut you are already ahead of the others. Speaking of guarantees, here is a disclaimer: a college education does not guarantee you anything in life. Life is full of unemployed but highly educated people. Additionally, a degree does not make you smarter, better looking or a better person for that matter, but I guarantee you a degree shows you are dedicated, better informed than a non-degree holder in some areas and will give you a a better opportunity to achieve whatever goals you seek. Not to mention what an accomplishment like this does for your self-confidence. But you must get that resume in the "select" pile. 

Every person reading this should knows what to do... Contact the education center -- a mantra you have heard repeatedly. Make an appointment, drop in, call, go to the Web site, ask your supervisor or call me. I guarantee if you call me during duty hours, I'll personally drive you to the Education Office to sign up. I'm not kidding. My office phone number is 394-4813. (Like Sandy, my secretary, Betty Brown, is going to flip through her risers when she reads this article and the calls start rolling in). As long as I'm not on temporary duty assignment, I will personally drive you to the Education Office to get you started. The rest is up to you. 

Will working on an advanced education kill you? No. Will the time spent in classes and doing projects turn you into a social leper? Probably, but you will recover. Your friends will probably come to your graduation ceremony, offer to buy refreshments and ask why you look smarter. 

Is this hard work? Yes, it is hard work, depending on your study habits, self-discipline (or lack thereof), motivation and desire. Is this the most important decision you can make affecting your future? Absolutely, it is. Your chances of hitting the lottery are infinitely low, and although you may have big plans and a get-rich scheme based on your brother-in-law's beer math, you are much better off calling me. 

Why all the Déjà vu babble in the beginning? Do you recall I said we left here as an E-5 family? I remember Sandy pushed me to the education center, and she was right. Regardless of what the future held, we would have a college degree in our back pocket to support a growing family. No guarantees, but no doors closed on us and since then, we seem to have landed in the right pile of resumes. So can you.