Academy honors motivated CCAF graduates

Community College of the Air Force graduates receive their degrees during a ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy's Falcon Club May 7. Many of the 84 graduates worked on obtaining their CCAF degrees during or between deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Community College of the Air Force graduates receive their degrees during a ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy's Falcon Club May 7. Many of the 84 graduates worked on obtaining their CCAF degrees during or between deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Community College of the Air Force granted Associate of Applied Science degrees to 84 new alumni during commencement ceremonies May 7 at the Falcon Club. 

Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia, Jr., 10th Mission Support Squadron superintendent, gave the commencement address to the Airmen, many of whom worked on their degrees during deployments. 

"You didn't let war interfere with your goal," he told them. "I am enormously proud of you."
He asked the new graduates to consider the future and what they can do to motivate and inspire and lead Airmen. 

"You have to have something they want," he said, referring to leadership skills.
The Air Force is the only branch of the service with its own community college. Thirty-six years old, it is also the largest community college in the world with 308,000 degrees conferred, and it now offers 67 degree programs. 

The Academy ranks number one in CCAF alumni per capita in the Air Force. 

Tom Cavalli, president of the Lance Sijan Chapter of the Air Force Association presented its Pitsenbarger Award to Staff Sgt. Richard Kaiser, 10th Security Forces Squadron with a grant of $400 toward future education and $250 each to Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Jesus, 306th Operations Support Squadron, and Tech. Sgt. John Saller, Air Force ROTC. 

The award recognizes Medal of Honor recipient Airman 1st Class William Pitsenbarger who was honored for treating and protecting scores of wounded Army infantrymen while under intense enemy fire near Saigon, Vietnam. He was mortally wounded in 1966. 

"The heart of our efforts for Airmen is for them to continue their educations," he said of the chapter. 

He stressed all Airmen should take advantage of what the Air Force offers. 

"When you walk out the door of the Air Force, be sure you have an education." 

Master Sgt. Keith Fields received a degree in health care management. He said he joined the Air Force to serve and to help people. While he does not work in direct patient care, Sergeant Fields said health management is also crucial. 

"It affects the hospital's ability to care for its patients," he said. Sergeant Fields is also pursuing a bachelor's degree in the field. 

Tech. Sgt. Andrea Blanchetti received her degree in criminal justice, an accomplishment that she sandwiched between deployments. 

"It's a relief," she said with a smile. 

Sergeant Blanchetti said she feels her concentration in homeland security will serve her well because she can incorporate it into force protection. 

Tech. Sgt. Terrance Williams received his degree in surgical services technology.
He said he has been working on his education for 13 years at every base where he has been stationed, including while serving in Iraq. He also holds a master's degree in criminal justice. 

"You have to make time," he said of others wanting to continue their education. You work toward it one class at a time. Just stick to it and use it as a stepping stone." 

In his closing remarks 10th Air Base Wing Commander Col. Jimmie McMillian praised the families, friends and co-workers of the new graduates. 

"They know they couldn't have done it without you," he said. 

To the graduates, he reminded them of the milestone they have achieved. 

"Go back and inspire and motivate others to follow in your footsteps," he said. 

Below are CCAF graduates and their degrees earned:

Staff Sgt. Gregory Ally, allied health sciences
Staff Sgt. Melinda Atencio, diagnostic imaging technology
Tech. Sgt. Ian Bernard, logistics
Tech. Sgt. Andrea Blanchetti, criminal justice
Staff Sgt. Annette Colon-Oliveras, cardiopulmonary laboratory technology
Tech. Sgt. Stephanie de Jesus, aviation management
Tech. Sgt. Albert DeSarro Jr., vehicle maintenance
Tech. Sgt. Sherrie Dunbar, allied health sciences
Master Sgt. William Farnand, human resource management
Master Sgt. Keith Fields, health care management
Staff Sgt. Erik Gallion, allied health sciences
Master Sgt. Todd Garland, ophthalmic technician
Staff Sgt. Mary Gates, human resource management
Tech. Sgt. Jason Haag, public affairs
Darryl Hamilton, munitions systems technology
Tech. Sgt. Matthew Kaden, ophthalmic technician
Staff Sgt. Richard Kaiser, criminal justice
Tech. Sgt. John King, information systems technology
Tech. Sgt. James Krahl, human resource management
Staff Sgt. Julius Lendof, allied health sciences
Tech. Sgt. Cyril Luster, cardiopulmonary laboratory technician
Tech. Sgt. Gary McMahel, education and training management
Master Sgt. Ernest Medina, avionic systems technology
Staff Sgt. Amanda Meeks, allied health sciences
Senior Airman Alexander Milton, financial management
Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Miranda, education and training management
Tech. Sgt. Steve Morris, paralegal
Tech. Sgt. Bradley Morton, education and training management
Staff Sgt. Robert Raulerson, human resource management
Tech. Sgt. John Saller, information management
Staff Sgt. Anndrea Sanders, information management
Master Sgt. Dennis Scott, construction technology
Master Sgt. Candace Smith, physical therapist assistant and human resource management
Staff Sgt. Earl Taylor, human resource management
Tech. Sgt. Michael Vagle, information management
Master Sgt. Matthew Vahey, radiologic technology
Master Sgt. Ronald Walker, education and training management
Staff Sgt. Anna White, bioenvironmental engineering technology
Staff Sgt. Brandon Williams, information management
Tech. Sgt. Terrance Williams, surgical services technology
Master Sgt. LaTonya Wilson, financial management
Staff Sgt. Ronald Yonson, radiologic technology