By Master Sgt. Julie Briggs, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 30, 2006
BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- The education center staff recently administered its 1,000th test, helping Airmen achieve academic advancement on its way to surpassing the last deployment rotation's record of 1,406.
Tech. Sgts. Tommy Reid and Darryl Diggs, 332nd Services Squadron Education Center, proctored 1,134 tests from May 9 to Aug. 4.
"The goal," said Sergeant Reid, noncommissioned officer in charge, "is to beat and exceed last rotation's record, but, more importantly, to help Airmen complete their academic goals."
For those going for undergraduate credit, 606 exams were given through the Defense Activity for N o n - T r a d i t i o n a l Educational Support Examination Program, the College-Level Examination Program, and the Excelsior College Examination Program.
Two hundred eighty-one exams were for enlisted and officer professional military education, Sergeant Reid said. One hundred twenty three were end-of-course exams for Airmen completing their respective career development course and 71 were job certification exams. Fifty-two exams were proctored tests for individuals taking distance learning courses and one was a college entrance exam.
Sergeant Reid, who also serves as the job site training point of contact, helps Airmen determine what they need to complete their on-the-job certifications. While he's at it, he also discusses Community College of the Air Force and undergraduate degree programs. Sergeant Diggs, the wing functional training manager here, trains unit training managers and also counsels Airmen. He is deployed from the 45th Space Wing, Patrick AFB, Fla.
The challenge, said Sergeants Diggs and Reid, is getting Airmen to their office. So far, they have assisted 1,323 people, including Soldiers, Sailors and Marines.
"Nine times out of 10, once they walk through the door, they will be back to take an exam," Sergeant Diggs said.
During counseling sessions, both tell service members they can complete some degree requirements through exams.
The exams are worth three-, four-, six - and eight-semester hours depending on the course. There are more than 80 exams to choose from, including lower-level courses such as English composition, human resource management and public speaking, and upper-level courses like organizational behavior and nursing concepts.
Airmen wishing to complete their CCAF degree requirement can also earn undergraduate degree credit with the same exam, Sergeant Diggs said. But, he cautioned, they must first check with their respective college or university to ensure the institution accepts credits by examination.
Universities and colleges also have minimum passing scores for these exams. While the minimum passing score for English composition is 50, some institutions may require a higher score before they'll accept the course for credit.
Another advantage to taking college exams is money. According to the DANTES and CLEP Web sites, test centers typically charge $60 per exam with an additional $15 registration fee. These exams are free to military members.
Unlike other base education offices, the office here doesn't test civil service employees because they don't have the means to accept money, Sergeant Diggs said.
Tech. Sgt. Matthew Coffey, the 332d Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron avionics intermediate station section chief and the NCOIC of the wing honor guard, is one of the center's more prolific test takers.
Working on his bachelor's degree in professional aeronautics and one class away from his CCAF degree, Sergeant Coffey has taken 14 tests since his arrival here at the end of May.
"A lot of the stuff I've already read or know about," said Sergeant Coffey, adding that he sometimes takes tests just to see how well he knows the subject.
Sergeant Coffey said he realizes he will have to take traditional in-class courses to finish his degree, but that by taking as many exams as is possible while he's here, he hopes to accelerate the process.
"I have two young kids at home and I want to be able to spend time with them when I get back," Sergeant Coffey said.
And taking exams backto- back, even if you don't pass, won't hurt Sergeant Coffey's grade point average, Sergeant Diggs said.
But for those who are skittish about taking a test without studying first, Sergeant Reid and Sergeant Diggs said the library has resources and all three national testing programs have Web sites in which to obtain study materials.
As for the college preparatory classes offered here, Sergeant Diggs said they can't be involved in these classes because it's a conflict of interest. They can't teach classes in which they will later administer the test. Instead, they tell people to contact their first sergeants who organize the classes.
Airmen are always welcome to drop in to schedule an exam, order PME courses or receive education counseling at the education office, which is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sergeant Reid said.
"If these times aren't convenient, we'll schedule a time before or after duty hours," Sergeant Diggs said. "Our doors are always open."