Exchange Student: Alabama educator learns from 908 experience

  • Published
  • By Gene H. Hughes
  • 908th Airlift Wing
Making selfless sacrifices on behalf of others is a hallmark of military service. The history of the armed forces is overflowing with tales of those who have made such sacrifices, both great and small.

While Airman First Class Earl Dickerson has never taken a bullet meant for another, the traditional ethics and values of the 908th Airlift Wing Reservist exemplifies the quality of spirit and selflessness any commander would like to have.

Aside from his military service, Airman Dickerson teaches sixth-grade math, science and social studies at W.S. Garrett Elementary School in Montgomery, Ala., and he's one of the best educators in the area. He has been named 2010 Teacher of the Year for the school, and 2010 Elementary Teacher of the Year for all of Montgomery County, out of a field of 2,000 educators.

He almost joined the service upon graduation from high school, but changed his mind and went for his degree instead. The service was never far from his mind. He has an uncle who retired from the Air Force who was very influential in his youth.

"After all the years I've been teaching, I realized the sacrifices that others have made for me to gain and maintain my freedom," he said. "So I finally decided to join the Reserves. I have two important jobs now; teaching the students and defending my country."

Airman Dickerson, a member of the Logistics Readiness Squadron, joined the wing in March of 2009. As with many Reservists, he has been able to benefit from the crossover of skills and experience between military service and civilian employment.

Being a teacher has its advantages when he comes to work at the wing, he said.

"You have to just be ready for anything and everything that's possible. You have to be aware at all times. I work with sergeants who are great at what they do, and I'm learning from them each and every day.

"I'm a better teacher because my job in logistics teaches me how to plan how to move people and materials efficiently," he said. "Also, my service shows me how to get the students to be responsible for their own actions and have some discipline. You may be smart, but if you don't have that discipline, that self control, you won't get too far in life. That's what I try to take back with me."

The Reserves and wing logistics benefit because he gives them "an individual who has great personal discipline and who understands and appreciates the importance of getting into the books and Air Force Instructions in order to help learn their job," according to Capt. Hope Norton, Logistics Plans chief.

"What work organization wouldn't be more successful because of a member like that? When you're around someone who's disciplined and takes pride in what they do, it just rubs off on you. It inspires you to become an even better Airman."

Airman Dickerson also gives of himself through community activities, such as church functions, service organizations and voter-registration programs. He is involved with the Salvation Army, Montgomery Area Food Bank, and the United Way, as well as his local Neighborhood Watch program.

He also holds a bachelors in elementary education from Troy State University, and a Masters and his education specialist degree in educational leadership, or administration, from Auburn University Montgomery.

With such a high degree of education, Airman Dickerson could have easily obtained the advancement, opportunities and benefits becoming an officer would offer -- benefits his recruiter and several classmates at basic training were quick to point out. But the perks weren't why he decided to serve.

"I just wanted to make sure I'm giving back," he said. "I have a family, and I want to make sure that my son and daughter have the same freedoms that I have today, and I want to be a part of that. I wasn't concerned about the pay. That's not where my heart is."

He still has the option of becoming an officer, but for the time being, the married father of two is content to learn; and through his example, he might have a few lessons to teach as well.