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Colonel Leslie (Lee) T. Smith is the Wing Commander for the 120th Airlift Wing, Montana Air National Guard, Great Falls, Montana.

Colonel Leslie (Lee) T. Smith is the Wing Commander for the 120th Airlift Wing, Montana Air National Guard, Great Falls, Montana.

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Last month 33 Vigilantes earned their CCAF degrees in the largest graduating class the Montana Air National Guard has ever had.  My hat's off to all the graduates for their hard work and dedication in achieving this important accomplishment.  Well done!

Education is something the Air Force values very much.  And you should too.  Education, to include training, is one of the main methods by which we learn in life.  The other is experience.   While experience is great, you usually don't get it until after the moment you need it and the lesson sometimes hurts.  Education and training, on the other hand, accelerate the gaining of experience, and without the sometimes painful lesson.

Developmental education in the Air Force works exactly the same way.  Through deliberate development over the course of our careers, Airmen get the right education at the right time so they are ready to meet the challenges they will likely face.

For those Airmen likely to lead others, developmental education is even more important. As in life, experience in leadership is good, but it often comes after it would benefit those being led.   It is for that reason that developmental education programs, like CCAF or more advanced academic degrees and PME, are so vital.  They are not boxes to check so that we can get promoted.  They are opportunities to learn, to practice and hone critical thinking skills so we can use them to benefit the people we are leading, or may someday lead. 

For those still not convinced they need to pursue a CCAF or advanced academic degree, or even PME -  you're correct.  No one is forcing you to do it.  But instead of thinking in terms of how it will (or won't) benefit you, think of how it could benefit others. Ultimately our Airmen deserve to be led by the very best, so leaders at every level owe it to their Airmen to be the very best they can be. 
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