Moody Airman SOARs to new heights

MOODY AFB, Ga. -- All it took for Senior Airman Cody Mass to follow his dream was a trip to the Education Office and a few minutes online.

“I’d been very interested in getting commissioned,” said Airman Mass, 347th Communications Squadron ground radio technician. “After receiving some information at the education office, I applied for a couple of different scholarships in the Air Force Personnel Web Site. Basically, if I was eligible, I applied for it.”

Airman Mass received notification he was selected for the Scholarships for Outstanding Airman program Jan. 10 by his commander.

The SOAR program offers active-duty Airmen the opportunity to enroll in college, earn a bachelor’s degree and return to the Air Force as a commissioned officer. The SOAR program requires Airmen to separate from the Air Force and join a university’s ROTC program. It provides them with $15,000 for tuition and fees, an annual textbook allowance of $600 and other various nontaxable stipends to help with living expenses.

“The benefits of the SOAR program make it a smart choice for young Airmen,” said Darryl Coleman, education office guidance counselor. “Even though the size and shape of tomorrow’s Air Force may be a bit different, we still need to recruit the best officers every year. Many of them are on Moody wearing stripes.”

To be selected for the program, Airmen must compile a package that includes a wing commander’s recommendation, the Airman’s duty performance history and the applicant’s academic performance.

“I first started putting my package together back in July, and the deadline for it was Oct. 15,” said Airman Mass. “There is a lot included in the package, and it’s not something that can be completed in a short time.”

Despite the fact Air Force Special Operations Command only has one spot available per year for the SOAR program, Airman Mass continually proved himself worthy by working hard in his shop. This helped him earn a recommendation from his squadron commander.

“Airman Mass has a sense of maturity and professionalism that sets him apart from the rest,” said Maj. Russell Voce, 347th CS commander. “He has demonstrated outstanding followership ability, which is very important for any leader. Similarly, if you tell him he is in charge of something, he works until it is completed. You can see that others involved willingly follow him regardless of his rank.”

Airman Mass plans to use this determination to get his degree as quickly as possible and return to the Air Force.

“I want to hurry up and get finished with school, so I can get back into the military lifestyle,” said Airman Mass, who will officially separate in June and start school in August. “But I’m also looking forward to going to college because it’s an opportunity to better myself. It’s gives me a second chance at school.”

He’s been accepted to Valdosta State University, but is also contemplating enrolling at a university in his home state of Texas.

Airman Mass plans to major in computer science and wants to return to the Air Force as a communications officer, continuing the same line of work he currently performs.

“I love my job and that’s what pushed me towards wanting to be a communications officer,” he said. “I always want to be involved in this career field because of the technological aspect. It’s the future of the world.”

Airman Mass also expects to make the Air Force a career and expand his educational resume’ even after his return from college, he said.

“I plan to get a master’s degree in computer science,” said Airman Mass. “I definitely want to stay in the Air Force as long as I can. I’m focused on becoming a general some day.”

Persistence, hard work and taking advantage of the many opportunities available helped Airman Mass achieve his goals.

“There are plenty of opportunities out there for Airmen,” he said. “I learned through this whole experience, when you really want something and you try hard enough, it’ll happen. It might not happen at the exact time you wish, but it will definitely happen.”