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Face of Defense: Major Tutors Airmen in Math

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy Larlee
380th Air Expeditionary Wing

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Nov. 29, 2010 – Few things are more frustrating in academics than struggling to find an answer or to understand a theory. Though the journey can be intimidating for students as they work through a problem, the struggle becomes worthwhile when they finally find the answer.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Maj. Jim Dorn tutors airmen in math during weekly sessions at an air base in Southwest Asia. Dorn is the 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron commander. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Larlee

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Through weekly tutoring sessions in algebra, Air Force Maj. Jim Dorn, the 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron commander, helps deployed airmen at an air base here turn their academic struggles into success.

"I find it extremely satisfying to see the light bulb go on for somebody," he said. "When they finally get something that they have been struggling with, you can tell by the facial expressions how happy it makes them."

Dorn said he holds the tutoring sessions because of a promise he made to a former squadron superintendent who helped him enter the Air Force’s “Bootstrap” program to become an officer.

"I promised to help people get their degrees any time I had the opportunity," Dorn said. "I did the same thing when I was stationed here in 2006. I tutored six people who were trying to [complete] an algebra course, and all six of them passed."

Air Force Master Sgt. Scott Neu, the 380th Expeditionary Logistics Squadron vehicle operations superintendent and one of the airmen Dorn is tutoring, said the major's assistance has been integral to his completing the course work.

"If it wasn't for Major Dorn, I wouldn't be passing my class right now," Neu said. "It's been a long time since I have been in school. I have been one class short of a Community College of the Air Force degree for eight years, and it has been a math class that I have put off."

Neu said the lack of a CCAF degree could prevent him from being promoted, so the tutoring that Dorn provides is helping him to extend his career. Dorn has a knack for presenting the material in an interesting manner and has a good sense of humor, he added, and that keeps the tutoring sessions fresh.

While it is great that technology allows deployed airmen to take online courses, Dorn said, old fashioned, face-to-face instruction sometimes is a preferable way to teach new material.

"When you are taking an online course in the desert, if you don't understand something, e-mail is not the best way to learn something like math," he said. "With the tutoring sessions, I can answer a question in person when they are stuck. It just works better."

Dorn said he believes his tutoring sessions are a great example of airmen taking care of airmen, and that he hopes other Air Force leaders will consider doing the same thing.

"I'd like to see other officers and military members with degrees throw their name in the hat and pitch-in as well," he said. "I think as an officer you need to lead your airmen through their personal goals as well as the mission goals."


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