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Education Part of the Mission for Michigan Citizen-Airmen

Senior Airman Ryan Zeski utilizes time during a long flight as a passenger on a Michigan Air National Guard KC-135 Stratotanker to work on some homework for a course he is taking at Oakland University in MIchigan, Nov. 8, 2018.

Senior Airman Ryan Zeski utilizes time during a long flight as a passenger on a Michigan Air National Guard KC-135 Stratotanker to work on some homework for a course he is taking at Oakland University in MIchigan, Nov. 8, 2018. Zeski is one of more than 250 Michigan Citizen-Airmen who are utilizing state or federal tuition assistance to further his education through his military service. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- Anywhere between a third and a half of the Citizen-Airmen of the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base are utilizing military-provided benefits in any given semester to further their higher education goals.
 
“It is a tremendous benefit that we encourage our Airmen to take advantage of,” said Master Sgt. Chandra Corrado, the recruiting and retention manager for the 127th Wing, which is a component of the Michigan Air National Guard.
 
Michigan Citizen-Airmen are eligible to take advantage of the Michigan National Guard State Tuition Assistance Program, or MINGSTAP, which provides up to $6,000 per year for Citizen-Airmen to pay for college or vocational training tuition costs. In addition, many Citizen-Airmen are eligible for GI Bill benefits from prior periods of active duty service. Many Michigan colleges and universities also offer reduced rate tuition to current military personnel, helping to stretch those benefit dollars.
 
Corrado said about 75 to 80 percent of potential candidates who are considering enlisting in the Michigan Air National Guard actively inquire about the availability of the educational benefits.
 
For many Michigan Citizen-Airmen, serving their state and nation while also attending college often means juggling responsibilities and engaging in careful time management practices. For two Airmen, that meant taking advantage of downtime during a recent deployment to get some studying in.
 
Senior Airmen Andre McClain and Ryan Zeski both traveled to the Pacific Ocean region in November onboard a 127th Wing KC-135 Stratotanker to pick up and transport home a group of Michigan Airmen who had been deployed to Guam. For both Airmen, that meant spending some time in the back of the aircraft doing homework while flying over the Pacific Ocean.
 
McClain, who is a boom operator with the 171st Air Refueling Squadron, is taking classes from Northwood University. He expects to complete his requirements for an associate degree from the Community College of the Air Force when the current semester ends. Next, he hopes to transfer to Lawrence Technological University to work toward a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering.
 
“The degree will give me more career opportunities,” McClain said. “I don’t want to limit my options.”
 
McClain is using MINGSTAP as he juggles class time with serving as an air crew member at Selfridge.
 
Zeski, a military photojournalist, has used both MINGSTAP and the GI Bill as a student first at Macomb Community College and now at Oakland University where he is studying computer science.
 
“Without the military education benefits, I wouldn’t be able to afford to attend school full-time. I even took some extra summer classes so I could graduate on time,” Zeski said.
 
Zeski said his professors at Oakland were very accommodating when he told them he would miss a week of classes to support a military mission.
 
“I talked to them in advance and they were willing to let me turn some work in on line, so that I could stay current in the class and still get my mission done in the Guard,” he said.