Flying Yankee Grads Earn Diplomas Published Sept. 18, 2008 By 1st Lt. Jefferson S. Heiland 103rd Airlift Wing BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, East Granby, Conn. -- Several members of a graduating class of 24 from the 103rd Airlift Wing who completed studies in the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) received diplomas at a ceremony on base June 28. Family, friends, co-workers, and dignitaries attended the event in support of the Fall 2007/Spring 2008 graduating class. Capt. Elliotte D. Draegor, personnel officer, 103rd Mission Support Flight, emceed the event and drew attention to the dedication and sacrifices required along the path of undergraduate studies. "Today, the CCAF Class of 2008 will be recognized as living examples of [the third Air Force] core value, Excellence in all We Do. Achieving excellence is never easy and it rarely happens quickly," she said. "To earn their degrees, our graduates needed patience and determination, the support and encouragement of their families, and strong personal motivation." Col. Brian P. Barnes, commander, 103rd Airlift Wing, congratulated the graduates and provided words of advice and encouragement as he filled the role of guest speaker. He also spoke about the important and delicate balance that students must keep between their studies, their careers and their families. Barnes read the definition of excellence from Webster's Dictionary, which repeatedly referred to one's performance as compared to another's, but then described his own view on what defines excellence. "I don't think excellence has anything to do with how you compare to others...it is based on a personal standard, one that we compete against ourselves and strive to be the best that we can possibly be," he said. Barnes encouraged the graduates to dream, and have goals. "Don't let anybody ever tell you 'you're not good enough' [or] 'you're not smart enough," he said. He also told them that they have a responsibility to always give their best effort, to continually educate themselves, and to seek out opportunities to help others to do the same. "Your duty is to share excellence and knowledge with others and to help them to become what you are," he said. The Community College of the Air Force offers 67 degree programs corresponding to five general areas of Air Force occupations. Each degree program consists of 64 semester hours and combines Air Force education and training with a core of general education requirements transferred from civilian education sources. The college was activated in 1972 to gain academic recognition for technical training conducted by Air Force schools. The CCAF is the largest community college in the world and is the only community college in the Department of Defense. The program has more than 326,000 registered students with more than 108,000 of them actively pursuing degrees.