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Redhawks sign up with Klamath Community College

Oregon Air National Guard Col. Richard W. Wedan, 142nd Fighter Wing Commander, right, and Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, President of Klamath Community College, left, pause for photograph during the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding between the college and the 142nd Fighter Wing, Oct. 7, Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs/Released)

Oregon Air National Guard Col. Richard W. Wedan, 142nd Fighter Wing Commander, right, and Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, President of Klamath Community College, left, pause for photograph during the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding between the college and the 142nd Fighter Wing, Oct. 7, Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs/Released)

Staff members from Klamath Community College (KCC) and Airmen of the 142nd Fighter Wing join Col. Richard W. Wedan, 142nd Fighter Wing Commander, (third from right) and Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, President of Klamath Community College, (fourth from right) for a group photograph during the conclusion of the signing ceremony between the college and the 142nd Fighter Wing, Oct. 7, Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore. A Memorandum of Understanding agreement will allow KCC to help Airmen complete their Community College of the Air Force degree in a more effective manner. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs/Released)

Staff members from Klamath Community College (KCC) and Airmen of the 142nd Fighter Wing join Col. Richard W. Wedan, 142nd Fighter Wing Commander, (third from right) and Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, President of Klamath Community College, (fourth from right) for a group photograph during the conclusion of the signing ceremony between the college and the 142nd Fighter Wing, Oct. 7, Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore. A Memorandum of Understanding agreement will allow KCC to help Airmen complete their Community College of the Air Force degree in a more effective manner. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs/Released)

PORTLAND AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ore. -- Every autumn, college students across the nation participate in a rite of passage, as they return to campuses large and small to pursue their dreams of earning a diploma. Airmen at the 142nd Fighter Wing now have the same opportunity here to complete their associate's degrees on base.

With the official signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Tuesday, the 142nd Fighter Wing and Klamath Community College (KCC), based in Klamath Falls, Oregon, began offering classes on site at Portland Air National Guard Base to help Airmen achieve their Community College of the Air Force Degrees (CCAF).

"This agreement will allow our Airmen to complete the classes they need to finish their CCAF degrees and hopefully be able to add another stripe in the process," said Col. Rick Wedan, 142nd Fighter Wing Commander.

Beginning in October of 2015, members of the Air Force and Air National Guard will need to have completed a CCAF degree to be promoted to the ranks of Senior Master Sgt. (E-8) and Chief Master Sgt. (E-9).

The 142nd Fighter Wing now joins the 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field, Klamath Falls, Oregon, with the same educational partnership. Leaders at the 173rd Fighter Wing signed a similar memorandum of understanding in April. The agreement allows KCC staff and faculty access to the Portland Air Base to academically advise students and instruct classes.

"We have experience with Kingsley Field [with the 173rd Fighter Wing] working with their Airmen because it's the right thing to do; to support our Airmen because of what all of you do for our country," said Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, KCC President. 

The courses are specifically intended to cover the requirements needed for degree programs with the Community College of the Air Force. Speech and math classes being offered on base this fall term, and they meet the CCAF semester-hour requirements.

"Currently we have a mix of AGR [active duty guard-reserve], traditional guard and reservists taking courses," said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Roper, Combat Operations Group senior enlisted advisor.

It was the Chief Master Sergeants counsel that got the ball rolling to allow Airmen a chance to finish key courses to toward their degrees on base.

"There are five core areas where a three-hour class is required for basic electives," said Roper. "Eventually humanities, social science and written communication coursework will be added."

Gutierrez explained how the dynamics of the work place have changed from previous generations. "The transformation of the work place has begun and 70 percent of new jobs now require post secondary education."

"The community college system reflects our values as a nation, because the system allows open access to everyone," he said.

Airmen completing their associate's degrees will see the pathway to promotions enhanced in the process.  The courses begin after the duty day and range from two to three hours in length.

"This is a great opportunity for our folks, and a testament to our Citizen-Airmen as integrated members of the community," said Wedan.