Building a foundation for success through education

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Pursuing an education can be a difficult challenge for many men and women around the country. Sometimes, even more so while serving in the military. Money for schooling can be scarce and finding time to balance work and school can be a daunting task.

The Air Force realizes Airmen face many challenges when it comes to pursuing a degree. There is a wide variety of programs and benefits that are available to Airmen who need help; they just need to know where to look.

The Malmstrom Air Force Base Education and Training Center holds a first-term Airmen center briefing on a bi-weekly basis, also known as FTAC, to help new Airmen transition into life at Malmstrom. Part of this class outlines the benefits that Airmen can use to pursue an education while fulfilling their duties as a member of the United States military.

"We do everything we can to help guide Airmen who are trying to get an education while serving in the military," said Lanette Hetrick, 341st Force Support Squadron education service specialist. "Sometimes the transition from technical school into the active-duty Air Force can be very hectic, so new Airmen put school on the back burner for a while. Before they know it, a year has gone by and they still haven't visited us. We want them to know there is help out there when it comes to getting back into the classroom."

Many programs from tuition assistance, to the Montgomery GI bill, and Post 9/11 Bill, as well as College Level Examination Program testing and even scholarships are available to military members of all ages who are trying to pursue an education.

"I am prior military, along with some of my coworkers, so we know how it feels to be on the other side of the fence," Hetrick said. "A lot of military members have actually earned half of their associate degree right out of technical school. It's an awesome feeling to see someone who has been trying diligently to get back into the classroom find out they already have half the credits they need for their diploma.

"Airmen who are currently in upgrade training for their career can also work toward earning college credit by taking CLEP and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support exams, which are exams that allow the military member to test out of certain courses," she added. "Testing is offered several times a week and we really encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity."

Park University also has an on-base campus located in the education center. The Malmstrom campus offers Airmen and civilians alike the opportunity to take college-level classes, which are split into five, eight-week terms per year of accelerated sessions. Classes are also held in the evenings in order to better accommodate military members who work during the day.

The Malmstrom staff also helps students plan a solid educational path towards achieving their goals whether the student is pursuing a degree here at Malmstrom or at a civilian institution.

"Everything the people need to begin their education is right here," said Aliana Barrow, Malmstrom's Park campus center director. "We also want everyone to know that you do not need to be in the military to receive the benefits Park University has to offer. Civilians and military family members can all start [their education] here. The staff is amazing and will do everything in their power to help you start taking the classes you need."

A mandatory College 101 course is given every Tuesday at 8 a.m. to Airmen who need help finding a place to start their education. In conjunction with the benefits offered by the military, Malmstrom's education center also provides assistance with building a solid educational plan, which will help them achieve their goals during and after their time in the military.

"I was a master sergeant in the Air Force with 18 years of service under my belt and no CCAF degree," Hetrick said. "One day the education center called me and said 'Lantette, you only need four classes to earn your degree,' so I ran to their office and said 'what do I need to do? Where do I start?' If I had not received that call and no one had reached out to me, I would not be where I am today. We want everyone to use what the military has to offer. Everyone has the potential to achieve their goals and get the education they deserve."

For more information on how to schedule an appointment with the education center, call their main line at (406) 731-3531. Office hours are Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information online visit or