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Springer Journal: Undereducated? Unemployable? I Think Not!

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PINEHURST, N.C. — Some of the more vocal elements of the anti-war movement in this country have it wrong ... again.

One of their frequent talking points is to accuse the elected leadership of this nation of sending the undereducated and the unemployable to fight this nation's wars. They imply that America's armed forces are a bunch of dullards who can't find work anywhere else.

The anti-war folks who espouse such rhetoric (including some academics, entertainers, politicians, commentators, editorial writers, etc.) are either ignorant, dishonest, or maybe even both.

I have recently visited several air force installations stretching from Seymour Johnson AFB in North Carolina to as far west as the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. I wish all Americans could witness first hand, as I did, what a stunning bunch of young men and women serve our nation in uniform.

While my comments in this column will focus on Air Force members, I am equally proud and confident of those who serve in the other branches of the military.

I visited the men and women of Seymour Johnson's 4th Fighter Wing for nearly a full day. It is absolutely exhilarating to spend so much time among disciplined young men and women who are proud of what they do and who do it very well. Who are these young folks anyway?

Throughout the Air Force -- worldwide -- virtually all have a high school diploma or GED. Compare this to America's population where only about 7 out of 10 ten complete high school.

Over 85 percent of our enlisted men and women have some education beyond high school. Thousands have at least a bachelor's degree, some have graduate degrees and some have PhDs. Undereducated? Unemployable? I think not.

Among the Air Force officer corps an undergraduate degree is a prerequisite for receiving a commission. Over 60 percent have one or more graduate or professional degrees. Undereducated? Unemployable? I think not.

When I spent some time with the 4th Wing at Seymour Johnson, I realized how tough it is to be in today's air force. I have a graduate degree and over 6,000 hours in the air as an air force crewmember. I could neither fix nor fly the sophisticated F-15E Strike Eagle. I spent about an hour in the simulator. There is simply too much in that cockpit for me to readily comprehend. It takes a bright agile mind with great hand-to-eye coordination to excel in that arena. Fortunately, the 4th Wing is populated with bright agile minds.

To the far west, on the slope of the Rockies, I spent three days at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). Here again, it is easy to be impressed with the quality of youngsters who seek a first rate education and a chance to serve their nation. How good is that education?

US News and World Report 2003 ratings place the Academy in the top five schools in the nation in such areas as "best undergraduate engineering" programs. They ranked second nationally in aerospace/aeronautical/astronautical engineering, and number five in electrical/electronic/communications engineering. These are not academic disciplines for the faint of heart.

The Princeton Review (2002) points out that the Academy accepts only 17 percent of applicants, That makes it the 6th toughest school of the nation's best 345 colleges to get into. Of those accepted 57 percent were in the top ten percent of their high school graduating class.

The Air Force Academy graduates will all qualify for a Bachelor of Science degre ... all will be schooled in leadership, discipline, character development, and all will participate in intramural athletics.

The USAFA has graduated 43 classes since its inception in the late 1950s. They have won more than 700 postgraduate scholarships in that time including 31 Rhodes Scholars.

Their NCAA Division 1 athletes have been pretty competitive also. The USAFA is second only to Stanford University in the number of intercollegiate athletes winning NCAA post-graduate scholarships.

Currently, the Air Force Falcons football team is 6-0 and ranked number 15 in the nation in the USA Today/ESPN poll. Not bad for a team with limited height and weight restrictions. Bright agile minds coupled with speed and quickness do make a difference.

On my recent trip I also visited McConnell AFB in Wichita, Kansas. The Wing Commander (senior officer on base) there is Colonel Michelle Johnson. She is an Air Force Academy graduate and a Rhodes Scholar. Undereducated? Unemployable? I think not. I will have more to say about that visit in another column.

I can understand why some members of our society are opposed to war. I only wish they knew the same men and women I know who serve this country. If they did, they would have to give up one of their talking points.

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