Wanting to marry and indulge in such luxuries as food and shelter, I enlisted in the USAF in 1982 as a Law Enforcement Specialist (somewhere between rent-a-cop and federal agent and encompasing both extrememes). My new bride and I started our world-wide tour with the Phillippines. Realizing that my job leaned too much toward rent-a-cop and not enought toward federal agent, I started taking classes at night with the idea of joining the FBI. One of the first classes I had to take was accounting principles II. I knew I was weak and spoke to the instructor (also our comptroller), who said "don't worry, you'll do fine". His first day of class he told us: "You are going to well in this class for two reasons, 1st because you are good students and have chosen to be here, and 2d, I'm a damn good teacher" That one statement led to an eventual undergrad in Accounting. I managed to compress a 4 year accounting degree in a mere 16 years.
It was difficult to study accounting sitting in a foxhole during and exercise or while in a police cruiser running radar, but I plugged along, but realized that I wasn't going to get very far with my education in this type of job. I applied to retrain and attempted to retrain into one of 4 finance fields. When I turned in my selections I was told I needed 5 selections so I looked for a job with only one opening that required an interview. I found one and that is how I became a Chaplain assistant for the next 11 years. This new "indoor job" allowed me better progress on education. I completed the BS with a lot of detours to include desert storm. Then completed a MBA (generalist) degree in the following two years, with a slight detour into an Instructional Systems Design (ISD) and another trip to the sandbox.
At that point I thought I was done with formal education. The MBA and ISD coursework begat a competitive selection to teach at Air University. Air University begat studies and Air Force certifications in technical, instruction, academic instruction, and psychometrics.
And then I got bored and started looking for a doctorate, by then I had changed my ideas about becoming FBI and decided that I wanted to teach at University. So I started looking at available PhDs. The only school, in practics, available at the time was Auburn University. The only PhD available that did not repeat previous academics and did not require a restart was "Public Administration and Public Policy."
I applied and was accepted into Auburn (Public Policy) and AUMs (Public Administration) combined program PhD. The hardest part was selecting my course of study, only 4 of the 13 didactic classes were compulsary. A funny thing happened on the way to my PhD, I had an opportunity to become an Air Force Officer. My education begat job opporunities, job opportunities begat opportunities to excel.
The nature of Auburn in 1999 was that the PhD student was required to be physically present at Auburn in order to pursue the degree. On-line eductation was considered sub-standard (ironic because I was one of the AFs major online education advocates at the time). I was faced with either/or, finish my PhD at Auburn, retire enlisted, and teach or accept a commission, triple my minimum lifetime income, and try to pick up again later. I left Auburn with didactics completed and the receint untimely death of my major professor, and walked into a brand new carreer (Heath Services Administrator) that has last for 12 years now. My generalist attitude has made me valuable as a specialist at times in Budgeting, Finance, Logistics, Information Systems Design, and crisis management (large scale disaster).
Was my decision wrong. I don't think so. When I retire at the end of this year, my retirement pay will be more than double the national average salary. My officer carreer pales in comparison to my enlisted career, yet it has produced a debt free bachelor's and Master's for my daughter (I gave her my GI Bill), and experiences that cannot be replaced by any amount of education.
So this is me, one of a host of "academics" who are "ABD", for those who ask if I will return to Auburn and finish. That depends on whether or not I still want to teach at University. I haven't decided yet. I don't need the title, I have better ones. But if I want to teach, I will need the credential.