MOODY AIR FORCE BASE -- Thursday was a time to celebrate at Moody Air Force Base as airmen representing many of the units on base received degrees in higher learning during its Spring Commencement Exercise.

There were about 36 airmen who received diplomas from the Community College of the Air Force, Park University, Valdosta Technical College and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. In all, there were 83 degrees awarded from the CCAF, 13 from Park University, seven from Val Tech College, and eight from ERAU. Not all the airmen could be present to receive their diplomas because some are on temporary duty, deployed overseas in the war on terrorism.

Col. Eric A. Ash, CCAF commander/president at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., gave the commencement address. He was commissioned through the U.S. Air Force Academy and graduated in 1979. The CCAF is federally chartered to provide career-related associate in applied science degree programs to enlisted personnel and enhances the technical and leadership skills of noncommissioned officers in the Air Force.

At the beginning of his speech, Ash recognized the 12th man as he looked into the audience that consisted of families, friends, commanders and fellow airmen from the graduates' units that have supported them while they were earning their degrees. He centered his speech on the role that education and training has in decision making. "That is the only point that I would like to leave with you this afternoon," Ash said.

"Education is a wonderful thing that never sleeps and keeps us young and keeps us tired at the same time," Ash said. "Education never sleeps. We have to continue to educate ourselves and continue to learn or we die." Ash gave a comparison of being like a battery that takes energy in and puts energy out. If you don't put energy out, you can turn into something like the Dead Sea -- lacking an outlet, the body of water is stagnant. People are the same way -- they have to be able to contribute on the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual planes.

Speaking as a colonel, he addressed the topic of the war on terrorism.

Speaking as a military man, Ash broached the topic of the War on Terror by saying education is the key. "Tactics and operations are vitally important, and I do hope and pray that we'll end the shooting war rapidly. I would recognize that the only way we will do this in the long run is to out educate our enemies. The problem with our enemy is that they are just plain ignorant."

He stressed that Americans have to be smarter and better decision makers than the enemy on our home front, and at the same time invest in the education business with the enemy and help them learn a better way.

"This is very important to us, and it's a lot less expensive than guns and bullets and lives out on the battlefield," he said. "I'm proud of you today, I congratulate you graduates on the educated learning that you have done here today. Today has helped contribute to the War on Terrorism, and I encourage you to continue that."

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