Professor returns to AF roots

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Success is something we all desire, whether it's financial or personal. Most of the time reaching your goals takes hard work and dedication -- two qualities synonymous with success in the Air Force. 

For one former Airman, it was these characteristics which not only put him on the road to success, but also led him back to the Air Force. 

"I learned how to learn and how to believe in myself in the Air Force," said Dr. Chris Chaves, the program coordinator for the Southern University of Illinois-Carbondale at McChord. "[The Air Force] just opened up the world to me. The discipline that was necessary was hard at first. You couldn't just get up and quit. You learn tenacity. It trains you for the real world." 

While in the Air Force, Dr. Chaves took advantage of the educational opportunities the Air Force offered. 

"I finished a bachelor's degree program at SIUC in 1990," he said. 

Then, as his second tour of duty was ending, Dr. Chaves opted to get out of the Air Force. 

"I think after Desert Storm everyone was fatigued," he said. "I got out of the military because I was tired." 

After leaving the military, however, the real world wasn't as friendly as Dr. Chaves had hoped. He felt something was missing. 

"When I got out I missed the family and the esprit de corps of the Air Force," he said. 

However, the skills he learned in the Air Force helped him earn a master's degree and a doctorate. 

"Again I have to credit in part the perseverance and tenacity I learned in the Air Force," he said. "Failure is not an option, you don't quit." 

Fran Miniken, the assistant program coordinator for McChord's SIUC branch said Dr. Chaves is someone all Airmen can look up to. 

"I think being as young as he is [and to have accomplished so much], he's a good example for Airmen," she said. "They might realize that what they want to accomplish in life is not too far out of their grasp." 

For that reason, now that he gets a chance to work with Airmen, Dr. Chaves encourages them to get their education while they can. 

"In the 21st century, a bachelor's degree is what's necessary in the Western world," he said. "It's important for Airmen to complete their education when they're young and have time because they will definitely need to be lifelong learners. That's a non-negotiable in this world."