Online GIS Degree Program

Air Force Veteran Furthers Analyst Career with B.S. GIS Degree

After three decades serving in the United States Air Force, veteran Steve Hicks didn’t stop at retirement to continue bettering his life. He took his military training and skills, and applied them to earning a technology-based bachelor’s degree in geographic information systems.

When Steve Hicks joined the Air Force out of high school, he didn’t plan on making it a career.

From the Philippines to Italy and the United States, Steve retired in 2006 after 30 years as the Command Chief Master Sergeant (CCM), the sixth Non-Commissioned Officer rank in the USAF, at the Air Force Flight Test Center on the Edwards Air Force Base in California. It wasn’t long after, he and his wife settled in Albuquerque, NM.

New Opportunities
Retirement didn’t fit Steve’s personality, so, when former Air Force colleagues encouraged him to look into government contracting, he didn’t hesitate. He joined a private military airborne surveillance and security company and after being deployed to a remote forward operating base in Iraq, and he was hooked.

“It was like being back in the old squadron with the same faces and a similar role,” Steve says. “It’s rewarding to support the troops and help ensure they return home safely, and at the same time, the technology side of the job is really cool.”

Today, Steve is a site manager and radar analyst/operator, providing staffing, scheduling and technical support for 115 personnel based at remote operating locations throughout Afghanistan. GIS and technical acumen are essential parts of the job.

Keeping Up With His Colleagues
Steve quickly realized that advanced education would benefit him greatly. “I work with some very smart people—from those who design and build our systems to the customers we support,” he says. With deep experience in GIS, Steve eventually decided to pursue college credit for his experience, and further his knowledge through advanced education.

The GIS Program for Him
Steve chose American Sentinel to pursue a B.S. Geographic Information Systems degree because of the school’s positive reputation and recommendations, and for the fact that it is a military-friendly, online institution. And he’s not the only one. Several of Steve’s colleagues are also American Sentinel students. He often finds himself chatting in an online forum discussions with his co-worker who sits in the room adjacent to his. “Having the opportunity to earn my degree online made it possible for me,” he says.

A President’s Honoree
In spring 2014, Steve was nominated for and awarded American Sentinel’s Mary A. Adams President’s Award for his hard work and dedication. “The award goes to a student who truly exemplifies perseverance in his or her program of study, despite many obstacles,” says Mary Adams, president at American Sentinel. “Even when dealing with various obstacles due to his overseas travels, Steve has managed to maintain a high GPA and put 110 percent into his studies. We’re proud to have him as our student, and know he will do great things with his degree.” Steve will graduate with a BSGIS degree in October 2015.

For Steve, the challenges he has faced haven’t taken away from what he has gained. “It’s not easy to go back to school, but I have a lot to learn about the GIS field,” says Steve, adding that his student success advisor Laura Beth Waltz has made “all the difference in the world” in the experience he has had. “That opportunity to learn and grow has made this a great experience.”

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