Of the 1,269 enlisted airmen in the 127th Wing here, the college education statistics break down roughly like this: a lot, a few, a handful, and one.

A lot of enlisted airmen here – 253 to be exact — have earned associate degrees, either through the Community College of the Air Force or other sources. A few – 86 – have bachelor’s degrees. A handful – 21– have master’s degrees. And one has a doctorate.

Air Force Master Sgt. Shaun West is the “one.”

“I felt the challenge was necessary,” said West, a member of the 127th Security Forces Squadron.

West holds the following degrees:

• Associate degree in criminal justice from the CCAF;

• Bachelor of science in counseling psychology from Rochester College;

• Master of arts in counseling from Oakland University;

• Two post-master’s degree certificates in counseling-related specialties, also from Oakland University; and

• Doctor of behavioral health degree, with a specialization in integrated care management, from Arizona State University.

A Call to Serve

“I really didn’t join the military for the educational benefits,” West said. “In fact, due to the timing of some of my classes, I missed out on some of the new, better benefits that the state has now. I really joined the Air National Guard because I felt called to serve. I wanted to serve the American population, and for me, I get to do that both in uniform and now in a classroom.”

West enlisted in the 127th Wing in 2002 and served as a member of the security forces squadron for about 10 years. His civilian career then led him to the west side of Michigan, and he transferred to the 110th Attack Wing in Battle Creek, where he retrained and served as a member of the 110th Medical Group’s bio-environmental office. In 2014, he returned to the Detroit area and rejoined the 127th SFS.

After he worked in a variety of positions as a counselor and therapist in his civilian career, West said, two new opportunities emerged for him. First, after finishing his doctorate, he was invited by Arizona State to serve as a part-time professor in the university’s online graduate program. He now teaches classes on population health management. About the same time, he was able to take a full-time position with the security forces squadron here.

“I really see that as two different types of service,” West said. “I enjoy both equally.”

The professor-airman is pondering his next challenges, possibly to include another master’s degree to help him better understand how different conditions affect different groups. “That’s information that applies both to mental health care and to law enforcement work,” he explained.

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