Plan for final out

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --

How many of you are prepared for life outside of the military? Seriously, if you were told tomorrow was your final out, what would you do?

We are currently in an environment where Defense Department rollbacks are a serious issue we must all contemplate. Fewer officers are being commissioned. Last year there was only one nonrated Officer Training School board, and they accepted only science, technology, engineering or mathematics degrees.

This year's staff sergeant promotion rate was just over 25 percent and the technical sergeant promotion rate was barely 15 percent. Oh, and let's not forget those pesky little things known as retention boards. I know some really good Airmen that have been, or are about to start separating because they didn't make staff sergeant or technical sergeant this year. Those that didn't make staff sergeant must now face the retention boards, which can be a scary experience.

If this past year hasn't been a wake-up call to get yourself prepared for a potential career on the outside, then you, sir or ma'am, are woefully ignorant.

What options do we have? Well, for starters there is the Community College of the Air Force degree. If you don't already have a degree, this is a great starting place. There are many elective courses that can be completed by taking a College Level Examination Program test. Study for a month or so, take a test and you get college credit.

The education office in the Blockhouse has some great resources available. Already have your CCAF degree? Start a bachelor's with tuition assistance. Within the Phoenix area, there are several great universities with excellent programs. Even for those facing separation, try not to forget that education is one of the greatest assets we have access to in the military.

Preparing for a move can be frightening and expensive. If you're like me, not from anywhere near Arizona, then it is going to cost you a pretty penny to move back home. I have roughly enough furniture and household goods for a two-bedroom house. To ship all of that back to New Jersey, I would be looking at a cost in the neighborhood of $3,500. You're in much better shape if you're still in the dorms, but you will soon also face the cost of moving out of the dorms. The cost to move out includes a deposit, furniture and all the bills that come with setting up a new place.

If this article comes across as fear inducing, then take it as a wake-up call to start planning now by looking at what options you have in front of you and what possibilities you can take advantage of. I was lucky in that I made staff sergeant this year.

The fear of the retention boards has been put off for another year. Even so, I have already planned and prepared for the possibility of being separated, returning to a civilian career for which I already have a degree in, and either staying in Phoenix or moving back home. The last thing I want to hear from anyone is, "May the odds always be in your favor."