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AFAS offers certification
Ms. Michelle Swingle, wife of Master Sgt. Steven Swingle, 49th Civil Engineer Squadron, poses outside of the New Mexico State University Alamogordo office at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Feb. 10. Ms. Hunter is currently enrolled in the Office Skills Certification program, a collaborate effort between NMSU-A and the Air Force Aid Society, which provides Air Force spouses with a certification worth $1,000. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sondra M. Escutia)
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AFAS gives the gift of education

Posted 2/23/2009   Updated 2/24/2009 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Sondra M. Escutia
49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/23/2009 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (ACCNS) -- The Air Force Aid Society is the official charity of the Air Force and, with donations, has been helping Airmen and their families since its creation in 1942.

Housed inside the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Holloman's own AFAS takes pride in assisting Team Holloman active-duty members and their dependants with many services and programs.

One of those programs gives active-duty enlisted spouses the gift that lasts a lifetime: education. It is called the Office Skills Certification program and the deadline for applications is approaching.

The program, which is a collaborative effort between New Mexico State University at Alamogordo and the AFAS, provides a grant to a number of spouses each year. It covers the cost of registration and tuition for 16 credit hours required to complete the Office Skills Certification, a $1,000 value.

"The Office Skills Certification program provides spouses of enlisted members the ability to obtain certification in order to enhance their occupational opportunities," said Ms. Susan Hunter, Air Force Aid officer.

Michelle Swingle, wife of Master Sgt. Steven Swingle, 49th Civil Engineer Squadron, planned on pursuing higher education, but after starting a family, she found the time to accomplish this was becoming harder and harder.

"I had enrolled in a few classes, but then I had my son and it was hard. My husband was deploying all the time," she said. "I had to take a little break."

However, after her children started attending school, Ms. Swingle realized she had more time available and decided to take advantage of the Office Skills Certification program through the AFRC. She is currently taking classes through NMSU-A, most of which are online - allowing her to work at her own pace.

"For me, this program was just that little push that I needed to go back to school," she said. "I thought, 'You'll pay for it? Okay!'"

The 16 semester hours entail five classes: English, business math, records management, document formatting and word processing. Although this certification primarily improves one's office skills, Ms. Swingle said the benefits of these particular classes expand far beyond the office environment.

"They are actually helpful in everyday life," she said. "Anybody could really use the classes. Even if you just want to continue going to school, they can help you in furthering your education."

After completing the Office Skills Certification, Ms. Swingle says she plans to continue with her education. She is currently working on her application for another grant through the AFAS.

"Once you re-enter the academic arena, perhaps you'll want to continue your education," said Ms. Hunter. "If you want monetary assistance with that, the AFAS also has the Hap Arnold scholarship."

The Hap Arnold scholarship is a $2,000 grant available to certain dependants, including children and spouses.

"There are educational opportunities available and we highly encourage people to apply for them," said Ms. Hunter. "As a whole, the military takes care of its own and fosters the opportunities for its members and families to fulfill their dreams."

This program ties directly into one of the 49th Fighter Wing strategic plan focus areas, "developing and caring for Airmen and their families."

"The Air Force stands out like that," added Ms. Swingle. "They really do care about their families."

To be eligible for the Office Skills Certification program, you must be the spouse of an Air Force enlisted member and not hold a degree and/or certification beyond a High School Diploma or GED. Spouses must remain at Holloman until May 2010 to complete the program.

This year, the program is being offered to five spouses and the selection of the five grant recipients will be accomplished through a lottery process. Applications can be picked up at the AFRC and returned no later than March 3.

To see if your base offers the Office Skills Certification program, the Hap Arnold Scholarship or any other AFAS program, please contact the A&FRC.

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