Life Long Learning

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Deborah Dillard
  • 17th Medical Operations Squadron
As a military member, leader, officer or enlisted, lifelong learning should be an integral aspect of our day to day activities as we strive to accomplish the Air Force mission.

Wikipedia defines Lifelong Learning as the continuous building of skills and knowledge throughout the life of an individual. It occurs through experiences encountered in the course of a lifetime. These experiences could be formal (training, counseling, tutoring, mentorship, apprenticeship, higher education, etc.) or informal (experiences, situations, etc). Lifelong learning, also known as LLL, is the "lifelong, voluntary, and self-motivated" pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. It's not a new concept, and it is one that can be of great benefit to our Air Force members.

Spending the last five days with more than 1000 Nurse Educators, military and civilian from across the nation has reaffirmed my belief in the importance of education and lifelong learning. As we mentor and lead our Airmen, discussing the importance of lifelong learning can be one way of ensuring our Airmen are able to accomplish individual, personal and professional goals. Often they may not know how or where to begin. There are agencies located both on and off base such as; the Airmen and Family Readiness Center, the Education Center, online websites, supervisors, mentors and peers, all can be instrumental in helping Airmen gain knowledge and information about lifelong learning.

As an Air Force officer and medic responsible for leading medics, I believe it is imperative to provide opportunities for lifelong learning that will enhance readiness training and ensure clinical competency necessary to provide safe high quality care to our active duty and beneficiary population. As we mature and advance in our careers' lifelong learning is a tool that can help us adapt to change,( after all flexibility is the key to airpower), find meaning and help enrich our lives with self-fulfillment.

Just last week I was politely reminded by one of my Airmen that I am the oldest "living" female on the base. I smiled about the choice of words "living female", and then reciprocated by telling my Airman that I might be the oldest active duty male or female on base. This brief encounter with my Airman again reinforced my belief in lifelong learning. There has never been a time in my life that I did not feel that education was a vital part of my well being.

As I reach my mandatory retirement age, I look forward to the challenges ahead, my belief in lifelong learning has given me the desire to return to school while preparing for my next career and life after the Air Force. It's even clearer to me that we need to encourage our Airmen to seek lifelong learning to help them prepare to take our places. I intend to let the tools gained from my lifelong learning experiences help me transition to life after the military. Let us as leaders and supervisors ensure our Airmen have the tools they will need to be able to adapt to the changes that will become reality as they progress in their careers and then into retirement. I believe lifelong learning opportunities can be that tool.