JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
The Community College of the Air Force granted Associate of Applied Science degree diplomas to 378 graduates from the National Capital Region during its combined installations Spring/Fall graduation ceremony, held at the Joint Base Andrews Theater, Oct. 21, 2021.
“This was the first combined installation CCAF Graduation Ceremony, honoring graduates from Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, and the Pentagon,” said Rachel Day, Joint Base Andrews lead Education Services specialist.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, deployments and other military commitments, 42 Air and Space Force members from the graduating class were able to attend; they walked the stage to receive their respective CCAF diplomas during the ceremony.
Air and Space Force members across the region earned their Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) five-levels and completed 64 semester hours toward their CCAF degrees in their respective career fields. In order to graduate, the semester hours required are broken up into five blocks: 24 Technical Education training hours, four Basic training hours, six Leadership, Management and Military Studies hours, 15 General Education hours and 15 Program Elective hours.
“The CCAF Graduation ceremony culminated a two-day event with the CCAF Leadership Team led by Tech. Sgt. Yomayra Rivera, 316th Medical Group, and Staff Sgt. Montahna Riener, White House Communications Agency,” said Kimberly Clemmons, Joint Base Andrews Education and Training section chief. “The CCAF Town Hall was the initial event offering Airmen and Guardians a look into how the CCAF degree works along with a Q&A.”
According to Clemmons, Joint Base Andrews had 301 graduates, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling had 51 graduates and the Pentagon graduated 26 members for a total of 378 graduates in 2021.
CCAF's main mission is to offer and award job-related associate’s degrees in applied science and other academic credentials that enhance mission readiness, contribute to recruiting, assist in retention and support the career transitions and professional growth of the Air and Space Forces enlisted corps.
During the CCAF Town Hall, the Airmen and Guardians from the three base agencies had direct access to CCAF higher leadership to discuss the institution, the significance of the degree and the graduation.
CCAF Commandant and Commander Lt. Col. Kevin Pond and CCAF Vice Commandant Chief Master Sgt. Alexius Reid, presided over the Town Hall and Dr. Donald C. Ellwood, CCAF Education Services director, explained the benefits and mission of the institution and answered participants’ questions. The CCAF Leadership team conferred the diplomas during the first ever tri-installation CCAF graduation in the CCAF graduation history.
“It was clear the NCR Education Services Offices, Force Support Squadrons, and leadership honor and personify teamwork, our Core Values, and the education of America’s sons and daughters,” said Pond. “We cannot thank them enough for the success of this year’s graduation and the work they do every day to ensure the development of our enlisted professionals.”
In addition, graduating Airmen and Guardians received their degrees in a variety of fields, including: Human Resource Management, Emergency Management, Health Sciences, Aviation Operations, and Instructor of Technology and Military Science. The graduation ceremony is a way to recognize each member’s accomplishments across the wing.
“Celebrating the achievements of our fellow service members is a part of our Air Force culture... and for good reason. My wingman’s success is my success. Each course taken, each credit hour acquired, each degree earned makes the United States Air Force that much more of a lethal force,” Pond said.
“The wars of tomorrow need educated Airmen. The members who graduated here today are those Airmen,” he added. “We’re proud of their accomplishments and proud of their willingness to set the example for their fellow service members.”
During the ceremony, several special awards and scholarship grants were presented to the following members from the graduating class:
Air Force Association Pitsenbarger Award ($500 scholarship grants and 1-year AFA e-membership) – Staff Sgt. Verona Mendrofa
Air Force Association Award ($250 scholarship grants)
Staff Sgt. Verona Mendrofa/Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Ryan
Air Force Sergeants Association Award ($500 scholarship grants)
Senior Airman Chelsey Clark
Joint Base Andrews Chief’s Group Award ($250 scholarship grants and Chief’s coin)
Senior Airman Chelsey Clark
Joint Base Andrews Top III Award ($250 scholarship grants)
Staff Sgt. Verona Mendrofa /Senior Airman Chelsey Clark
Washington Area Top III Award ($100 scholarship grants)
Tech. Sgt. Yusuke Yumada
CCAF Excellence Award ($300 donation to the booster club)
Air Force Legal Operations Agency
Dr. Ellwood was the special guest speaker providing the commencement speech. He encouraged graduates to continue their education.
“This event and how well it was coordinated set the standard for all commencement ceremonies going forward,” Dr. Ellwood said. “I would especially like to thank all the spouses, parents, and supervisors who continue to support their Airmen. Naturally, we started with yours because you are the “A” team. We are here as representatives of your college to honor and thank you…to show you that this huge, ubiquitous, far-off college and its faceless administrators care for each of you individually and are engaged in ensuring your success.”
Dr. Ellwood emphasized the importance of education, freedom, setting goals and how to overcome greatest fears by conquering it and by completing the educational degree with flying colors.
“You are those leaders! Your education has set you free,” he said. “Whether you are an NCO or simply lead by example, you also have the power to set people free. For many of you academics was your greatest fear. I know this because I just completed a massive Airman-specific research study where thousands of you told me this.”
A federally-chartered degree-granting institution, CCAF serves the U.S. Air and Space Force's enlisted total force. Statistics show that at least 80 percent of service members are enrolled in CCAF.
“Let’s celebrate you earning an Associates of Applied Science degree while serving in the world’s greatest military. Let’s step back to appreciate the fact that many of you are parents, caregivers, mentors, and great leaders in your organization,” Dr. Ellwood added.
According to the official CCAF website, the college partners with over 112 affiliated Air and Space Force schools, 82 Education Service offices located worldwide and more than 1,500 civilian academic institutions to serve more than 305,000 active duty, National Guard and Reserve enlisted personnel, making CCAF the world's largest community college system which awards over 22,000 associate degrees in applied science annually.
“It’s important as we honor our Airmen’s big accomplishments,” said Sanghee Park, 11th Force Support Squadron Education and Training section chief. “This is a unique CCAF ceremony involving three NCR installations: Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling and the Pentagon.”
Established in 1972, the CCAF was activated in order to gain academic recognition for the technical training provided by Air Force schools. Since 1977, more than 2.7 million Airmen have had the opportunity to receive a CCAF degree, according to the institution.
“To make it a great event, the CCAF Graduation committee and the base leads met regularly to discuss progress and delegation of responsibilities for the last several months,” Park added. “With the entire team’s work, we had the amazing CCAF graduation.”
“I would like to thank all three base education centers for their hard work and team approach to this event,” Dr. Ellwood said. “In addition, I would like to give kudos to Chief Master Sgt. Robertson for going above and beyond to make this trip extremely productive and enjoyable.”
Learn more about the CCAF from their official website at https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Barnes/CCAF/ or visit the nearest Education Center for more information.
The event was livestreamed for the graduates, family members, colleagues and friends who could not attend. It is available for viewing at https://youtu.be/BAus-3NuaF0