WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio –
While academic degrees are generally masked at officer promotion boards, they still play a critical role for certain leadership and technical positions, so keeping official records updated with the most accurate information can be vital.
Some situations where having an updated academic record is crucial include reserve and guard officers, who must have a bachelor’s degree in their record before being promoted to captain; doctors, scientists, engineers and some others who are actually detailed based on their academic degrees; and commanders, executive officers and some other leadership positions that take academic degrees into consideration, according to Maurice LaBrie, Air Force Institute of Technology Military Personnel and Support Operations chief. Even active duty officer academic records are only masked up until the colonel board, in which case a master’s degree must be in the officer’s official record.
It may surprise some that two Airmen at the AFIT Academic Coding Branch are responsible for updating the records of around 130,000 total force Air Force officers, including active duty, guard and reserve. They receive upwards of 20,000 transcripts annually for bachelor’s, master’s, doctorates and professional degrees and every one of them is entered by hand. It’s a job these Airmen relish.
“Yes, I absolutely enjoy what I do. I love my job here,” said Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Warehime, ACB noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “It’s interesting and even though we do the same thing day-to-day, it differs from day-to-day. Whether it be with customers or different transcripts or with different degrees that I see, I learn things every single day.”
They see themselves providing not only a vital mission for individual officers, but one that impacts the entire Air Force.
“[It’s important in order] for them to be assigned to the proper positions throughout their career progression,” said Master Sgt. Misti Rodriguez, ACB superintendent. “[We ensure] that their data entries are correct so that they can progress positively and the Air Force can find the person they’re looking for to meet its needs.”
The ACB is located at AFIT due to the fact that that’s where the officer’s academic database has resided since its start, said LaBrie. But soon those files will merge with the Air Force enlisted academic degrees database located at Maxwell Air Force Base Gunter Annex in Montgomery, Alabama. While the ACB won’t be physically moving, once the data merge is complete officers should start receiving automated notifications once their records are updated – currently, officers must check the Virtual Military Personnel Flight time-to-time until they see the change.
While processing large quantities of transcripts can be time consuming, Rodriguez says that the best thing that officers can do to speed up their updates is to closely follow submission instructions at the ACB’s website: www.afit.edu/CODING. That, and understand that all of the officer academic record updates for the entire Air Force comes down to a small, dedicated team.
“People don’t realize that it’s just the two of us,” Warehime said. “But, we actually do get a lot of emails thanking us for the quick response or for updating their data. It makes the job worth it.”
The Coding Branch suggests allowing 2-3 weeks for delivery and processing of traditional mail. The submitter will notice their update on the Career Data Brief in the vMPF within 24 hours of the processing. The AFIT Coding Branch cannot make real-time updates to Assignment Management System Single Unit Retrieval Format (SURF) or the Air Force Virtual Education Center (AFVEC) and it can take up to 30 days for changes to update in those systems. If an individual would like delivery confirmation of their materials, they should use certified mail or another tracked delivery method. Visit the ACB website for more details.
Some Frequently Asked Questions on the Academic Coding Branch
Q: How does an officer get their academic records updated? The member must request an official transcript be mailed or emailed to the ACB. Electronic transcripts can be emailed directly from the university to email@example.com and the mailing address is:
AFIT Academic Coding Branch
2950 Hobson Way
WPAFB OH, 45433-7765
This office will not accept diplomas, photocopies, screenshots, enrollment verifications, letters of degree completion, etc. If the member has an unopened transcript, it can be mailed to the address above.
Q: How can I determine if my transcript was received and/or education level updated? Please login to the AF Portal, vMPF and view your Career Data Brief (CDB). This office can only update information in the academic section.
Q: If I think that my school/degree was loaded incorrectly, what can I do? First, it is important to note that this office works off of a coding system. We do not manually type in degree titles or college names. If you believe there is an error, please refer to the “School Codes” or “Academic Specialty Codes” list at www.afit.edu/CODING/ and email your suggested change to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: I have been notified that my degree information is not on file even though I have been in the Air Force for several years, and I had to have a degree to be commissioned. How is this possible?
When you are commissioned in the Air Force, the office that commissions you is responsible for obtaining official transcripts, verifying academic education completion, and forwarding them to our office within 90 calendar days. This does not always happen. We rely on individual officers checking the accuracy of their records. The first step is to validate your degree information on your Career Data Brief. While the SURF and OPB may be similar, the SURF only holds your top two, highest, most recent degrees and the OPB may have masked your academic information. The CDB and MILPDS both hold up to five degrees, after five degrees, the lowest/oldest degree will be removed from your record.
Q: Can I get a copy of my transcript or my GPA? No. Once transcripts are received by this office, they become Department of Defense property and cannot be returned to the member. However, if you are applying for a position within the DOD, that agency can email a request for your transcript and we will fulfill the request.
Q: Do you update PME? No. We do not update PME attendance in MILPDS. However, if you completed a degree in PME, that transcript will need to be sent to our office to update the degree.
Q: I completed a residency, fellowship or CPE, these programs do not have official transcripts. How do I get them updated? To update these programs, this office can accept an emailed certificate with the dates of the course/program and signatures from the program heads.
Q: I completed a degree in another country, can I just send that transcript? Some foreign universities are acceptable, however, most are not and require a foreign degree evaluation. This evaluation is an out of pocket expense for the member. The first step is to send the transcripts to ACB for review or email email@example.com. If the college is not on our table, a foreign degree evaluation is required to determine its US equivalency. Medical officers with foreign degrees may contact the Air Force Centralized Credential Verification Office (AFCCVO) and request a Summary of Credentials Verification.