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Brian Westerman: MSU student uses education to help write his next chapter

Like a lot of young graduates, Brian Westerman had a plan after high school. The problem was that it didn't follow his dad's plan. In a show of teenage defiance, the W. Va. native made a choice that would affect the rest of his life.

"Dad and I pretty much disagreed on what college I should attend," Westerman said. "So I joined the Air Force"

He originally planned to serve in the military for four years, travel, make a little money and go to college. It would take 19 years for him to get around to the college part.

A self-proclaimed "supply guy," Westerman's career entailed supply logistics and supply chain movement. As an installation deployment NCO, Westerman coordinated all the necessary equipment and clothing for approximately 500 deployed personnel per year. The complicated task required arranging the delivery of 30,000 tons of supplies - from ammunition to clothing to vehicles -- from other locations to accompany troops deployed to foreign lands.

After stints in Washington state and Germany, he was stationed at Minot Air Force Base in 1995 and has never left. As his career flourished, Westerman became the NCO In Charge at MAFB's Airmen and Family Readiness Center, where he worked closely with airmen before and after deployment.

"I prepared people for deployment by helping manage personal needs before leaving and assisting with reintegration when they returned," he said.

He bridged the needs gap by coordinating contacts for financial, religious, family, life counseling - whatever the situation called for. He also worked closely with the Department of Defense STARBASE youth program, designed to raise the interest of youth in learning science, technology, engineering and math. As part of the program, fifth graders from area schools sent care packages to personnel deployed overseas.

As his career wound down, Westerman raised the bar on yet another goal: obtaining a degree. Although he achieved many career milestones and his office is peppered with awards, in 2008 he enrolled at Minot State University.

"Getting a degree was a personal goal; I wanted to set an example for my son and daughter showing them that education is important and that no matter how busy or old you are, you still have time for an education," he said.

Westerman retired from the USAF in 2010 and his story could have ended there. However, now he works as the Materiel Management flight commander for the 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron, a civilian position responsible for all supply chain movement on MAFB. He has 77 airmen who work for him and oversees over $600 million worth of assets. And yet, some days his biggest concern is homework.

"I am a single dad and a full time student with a busy career," he said. "But I tell the airmen the Air Force has changed since I first enlisted. Education has heavy weight when progressing in your career. Regardless of where I go, college courses are the preface of my new life."

Westerman will graduate in December 2012 with a bachelor's degree in management.