Monday, November 9, 2015

Opportunities soar for Air Force veteran at Cuyamaca College

Chris Reaves
In honor of Veterans Day, here is a profile of a veteran now attending Cuyamaca College.
Chris’ Reaves first try at community college 14 years ago ended in disappointment. But after his military service, the Air Force veteran is now earning solid grades as a wastewater technology major at Cuyamaca College, training to become a wastewater treatment operator.

Reaves credits the military for instilling discipline and Cuyamaca College for helping him find direction.

“Back when I had just graduated from Mount Miguel High School, I had no idea what I wanted to do and I enrolled in community college because that’s what my friends did,” he said. “But I was too immature and too busy socializing with my friends. With the freedom to come and go as I wanted, I was skipping classes and when I got my first grades, all I saw was a row of ‘W’s (withdrawals).”

With no career prospects and nothing beyond a high school education, he enlisted in the Air Force. Reaves completed his basic training and was sent to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, where he was assigned to traffic management operations.

“I was the point of contact for all military personnel and dependents flying out of Peterson, making flight arrangements and such,” the former senior airman said.

The high point of his four-year enlistment was his deployment as a third country national, or TCN, security escort at Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, headquarters of U.S. Air Force Central Command. As a TCN escort, it was Reaves’ job to provide an extra measure of security by keeping watch over non-American civilian contractors working at the base.

After completing his four-year enlistment, Reaves worked as a parts cleaner at Solar Turbine, married, and became a father of two sons. A move to Texas and a divorce ensued, and he returned to San Diego.

Missing his sons and determined to establish a stable home for them to visit, Reaves decided to return to school. He chose Cuyamaca College after hearing about its water/wastewater technology program, training to become a

“It’s a recession-proof career and with a lot of people in the field getting to retirement age, there’s a really strong job outlook,” he said.

Now in his second year of studies, Reaves said Cuyamaca has been a perfect fit for him because of its veteran-friendly environment and the quality of instruction.

“All my instructors in my wastewater technology classes are people working in the field,” he said. “They have the knowledge, the hands-on experience and the connections – I couldn’t ask for more.”

The G.I. Bill educational benefit he receives through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs covers his college costs and the VA also pays him for his 20-hour-a-week job in the college’s Veterans Resource Center. A member of Cuyamaca’s Student Veterans Organization, or SVO, Reaves is a strong supporter of the college’s veterans services program.

“Everyone from the counseling staff, the office staff, the person handling the VA benefits certification – they’ve been so helpful to me,” he said. “Their doors are always open to veterans.”