JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Pursuing a higher education requires both a time and financial commitment.
The current Air Force Tuition Assistance program provides active duty military members with up to $4,500 per fiscal year for education expenses. Tech. Sgt. (Dr.) Louis Lough, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the dental laboratory from the 628th Medical Group, took advantage of the TA program to help pay for his education.
"I used Tuition Assistance along the way," said Lough. "You only get $4,500 a year so when I would finish up the TA I would use the GI Bill for what they call a Top Up Program and GI Bill on Active Duty."
Lough entered the Air Force in 2005 with no previous college level education. He completed undergraduate and graduate degrees, and then earned a Doctorate of Business Administration while serving on active duty.
"I had to make the decision upfront for each degree program, I was not going to start something if I was not going to see it through," said Lough.
The goal of pursuing college education comes with financial, time and self-motivation commitments.
"There are many sacrifices, whether they are financial commitments, family time or enjoying hobbies and activities after work," said Lough. "The work load was not excessive but it became a way of life; every day. It had to come first, before I allocated time to personal interests." Lough explained, "Many expenses such as research instruments, editor and publishing fees and annual out of state doctoral residencies required self-funding."
Lough plans to continue his career and, eventually, retire from the Air Force. His education is a goal he wanted to accomplish for himself and his family.
"My salary is the same regardless of my academic credentials. I would say my motivational factors are personal," said Lough. "I wanted to challenge myself, to prove to myself that I could see the challenge through to the end. I had an excellent mentor who later became a great friend. Dr. Amy Preiss stuck by my side for several years overseeing my research and providing guidance along my journey. Dr. Preiss was definitely a critical factor of my success."
Lough uses his knowledge to assist the 628th Medical Group beyond his daily tasks in the dental laboratory.
"Right now the executive staff and I are working on a health literacy strategy," said Lough. "I helped them develop and validate a new survey to measure how the organization is performing in terms of health literacy."
Lough's extra work outside his normal responsibilities is noticed and appreciated by the 628th Medical Group.
"What he does for us, external to lab, impacts the entire Medical Group," said Chief Master Sgt. Chad Ballance, the superintendent of the 628th Medical Group. "His analytical ability to breakdown and fix processes, makes us more efficient in providing the perfect patient experience. We couldn't be as good as we are if we did not have folks like Tech. Sgt. Lough."
Education is more than completing a curriculum. Leadership skills developed in higher education help create more accomplished professionals in the workforce.
"He is one of a kind," said Ballance. "He is the epitome of a leader. All one has to do is look at his Airmen and his section and you see the greatness, you see other winners. Lough sets the example and his people follow; that is one of the benchmarks of a true professional."
The Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education includes the Air University and develops, refines, adapts and deploys the Air Force professional military education curriculum. Recently, the Barnes Center began using competency model initiatives for Air Force wide learning. Lough studied leadership philosophy for his dissertation titled, Emotional Intelligence Training Intervention: A Mixed Methods Study of Air Force Staff Sergeants.
"I specifically examined the transformational leadership competencies and emotional intelligence competencies of Air Force first-line supervisors," said Lough. He continued, "I wanted to know whether or not emotional intelligence training would have an impact. I discovered through the research project that there was a significant impact on many leadership competencies and that emotional intelligence training may be the next step in developing future noncommissioned officers. I was fortunate to publish my dissertation and provided the results of my study to the Air University's curriculum development teams."
Lough uses his education to benefit the 628th Medical group and the entire Air Force.
"He's built a competency model to complement the Airmen Comprehensive Assessment (ACA)," said Ballance. "He's gone to the Wing Staff Agency and different areas to teach others how to conduct the assessment. He makes a difference, not just locally, but in the Air Force because the Barnes Center has adopted some of his competency model initiatives. That is something he should be proud of. I'm absolutely proud of him."