Service before self, but don't forget about self

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- As Airmen, we live and breathe the Air Force core values on a daily basis. However, don't let our second core value, service before self, distract you from actually taking care of yourself.

In my 13 years of active-duty service, there is one regret I hear most from people both in and out of the service, "I wish I would have done better at school." Whether that is high school or college, an education does more than set you apart; it sets a foundation.

The other regret I often hear is, "I wish I would have done this sooner." Less than 10 percent of our active-duty enlisted Airmen have a bachelor's degree, and less than 25 percent have an associate or Community College of the Air Force degree. Moreover, of our senior enlisted who are generally closer to retirement, less than 25 percent of the senior NCO tier have a bachelor's degree. Why?

Did you know that a bachelor's graduate will make 56 percent more than a high school graduate? Even a graduate with an associate degree tends to make 27 percent more than a high school graduate. Additionally, more than half of companies who seek employment candidates require a college degree with 44 percent requiring at least a bachelor's degree. Therefore, those who don't pursue education are not only sacrificing opportunities for a career outside the Air Force, but also what a degree actually brings -- knowledge.

With on-base education opportunities, coupled with a slew of virtual classrooms and a wealth of education benefits to choose from, why wouldn't you start pursuing your degree? Sure, you might be in upgrade training, or studying for that next stripe, but what about those of you who aren't? If you do have a valid reason, or reason good enough for your own psyche, just don't let too much time pass, or you may find yourself leaving the Air Force with regrets.

We do wonderful things day in and out while we are in uniform. Just don't forget to continue to develop your own post-Air Force career foundation while you are at it. Remember, while it is service before self, don't forget about yourself.