Avoiding College Debt: Advice on Joining the AF Reserves

  • Published
  • By Capt. Ashley Walker
  • 913th Airlift Group

 As high school graduation looms among a seemingly endless stream of testing, your future has many options. This daunting task of choosing between colleges, scholarships, and working can be overwhelming.

Airman Samuel Kidd, 913th Aerospace Medical Squadron, recently graduated Air Force Basic Military Training and shares his story about why he joined the Air Force Reserves.

“I learned through pre-enlistment research that the Reserves provides a chance to use education benefits while going to school fulltime or working a civilian job,” said Kidd. “I strongly advocate doing your research or ask your recruiter about the different options and aspects.”

Even though his dad is a retired Marine with 23 years of service, his family is very supportive of the path he chose.

“My mom knew it would be best for me, being that I had no scholarships to go to school,” said Kidd. “Both parents also knew I didn’t want to be another statistic with the student loan debt crisis.”

By the time someone commits to the Air Force Reserves, the average wait time before going to Basic Military Training is 2-3 months. While waiting, members can participate in a Development and Training Flight Program to get a head start on military terminology and customs.

“After basic training, members are sent to technical school to learn the specific jobs skills,” said Master Sgt. Nathan Thorn, Air Force Reserve recruiter. “Depending on the job, the tech school can last anywhere from six weeks to two years.”

Before shipping out to basic training, Kidd took advantage of his free time to exercise and study up on Air Force knowledge.

“Also, I would take advantage of education opportunities such as CLEPS and DANTEs [passing these exams enables service members to gain college credit]. Anything besides sitting still and waiting to be shipped,” said Kidd. “I know YouTube may seem like an unprofessional information outlet, but it really helps.”

The Reserves unlocks educational benefits, but the required training might not fit between school semesters.

“If given prior notice, some schools will allow you to leave for basic training and pick up the semester a few weeks late,” said Thorn. “More commonly, students take a single semester off to finish all the training. Doing that also gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the Seasoning Training Program [on-the-job training with the unit].”

The Reserves have many statuses, majority being Traditional Reservists where they usually serve one weekend a month and two weeks a year. This allows service members to stay in their local communities and time to pursue educational or civilian opportunities.

“I am going to use my Tuition Assistance towards a local college near home,” said Kidd. “Since I’m a Traditional Reservist, I’ll have the time to work on becoming a dental hygienist.”

The Air Force Reserve is an opportunity to start, continue or share your adventure. We seek the best and brightest minds from across the nation to fill critical career fields and future growth in mission areas such as Air Force Reserve pilots, maintenance technicians and space, cyber and intelligence operators.

The local Air Force Reserve recruiter is located at 140 John Harden Drive, Jacksonville, Arkansas.