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Dorian Hodge: lifelong learner

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Dorian Hodge, 30th Force Support Squadron Community College of the Air Force advisor, stand in front of her office window, Oct. 10, 2017, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Since her tenure at VAFB in 2008, she has helped council and guide 1,615 students in achieving their CCAF degree. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Dorian Hodge, 30th Force Support Squadron Community College of the Air Force advisor, is retiring in less than two weeks. Since her tenure at VAFB in 2008, she has helped council and guide 1,615 students in achieving their CCAF degree. But as awesome as that is, it scarcely compares to the ever exuberant, bubbly persona; that is Miss Hodge herself.

 

Her office sits on the second floor of the education center, and as many Airmen know, she is a veritable wealth of information. If you ask her what time it is, she will tell you how to make a clock. As overwhelming as that is, and I will be honest, it can be overwhelming, she has methodically and meticulously guided dozens of Airmen in their education goals.

 

Her appointments last an hour, and that hour of time is so jam-packed, more than a few Airmen have walked out with their heads spinning. But after the initial shell-shock is over, the Airman can look down at the stack of papers they now hold in their hands, (I have never seen anyone leave that office without at least a few papers) and scrawled in blue ink and yellow highlighter across their transcripts is a comprehensive plan to achieve their goal.

 

Her thirst for knowledge is as great as her desire to help others along the same path and her interests are as diverse as the collection of bottles and baubles lining her windows and shelves of her personalized office.

 

I believe that people learn better in a comfortable environment, she said.

 

Some of the more eye-catching and unusual items scattered around the office are the small fuzzy-creature finger-puppets near her computer. These, I later discovered were made of felted cat hair, crafted by none other than Hodge herself.

 

“I want to learn how to do everything,” Hodge said. “I am a lifelong learner. Now I will have more time to make finger puppets and work on my crafting with cat hair. When you brush your cat and gather up the loose hair, you can sterilize it and turn it into felt. So I make these little finger puppets. But some people make purses and pins and jewelry out of cat hair. I definitely have a lot of cat hair.”

 

Some of her other unconventional interests include welding, car mechanics and accounting. She plans to use the final few years of her GI bill to take as many classes as she possibly can.

 

“I would love to know how to be a doomsday prepper,” she said. “Cal-Poly actually offers some doomsday prep courses. I am going to use my GI bill for everything practical that I can possibly learn. The only bad thing about my retirement is that I only have two-and-a-half-years left on my GI bill. I would like to take some accounting courses, since I am involved in the financial board at our church, and have been a treasurer for the North County Rape Crises and Child Protection Center. So I thought to myself, ‘it would be handy to know accounting’. I can balance a checkbook, but that’s not accounting.”

 

Before Hodge settled as the CCAF advisor at VAFB, she had a 20-year career in the Air Force, and once again many of her decisions were based off her one true vice - the desire to learn everything.

 

“I did twenty years in the military,” said Hodge. “I absolutely loved the work I did in the military. I am one of the few people who volunteered to be a missileer. Part of that reason was because of the minuteman education program, which they no longer have, but it was a free masters degree. It was one of the incentives to get people to go into missiles, since not a lot of people want to be underground. I loved being a missileer, I would still be underground if I could today. I am also interested in caves and spelunking, so maybe that has something to do with it. Oh and something about having ten nuclear warheads under your power, that’s a bit of a high.”

 

She joined the Air Force later than many in life at the age of 27, having found herself bouncing from one job to the next. Wanting to prove she could work with her head, instead of sticking solely in blue collar fields, she looked at the Air Force as an option. Her sister worked as a civilian for a recruiting squadron, so in short order she found herself a commissioned officer in the USAF.

 

“I was actually a professional cocktail waitress while I was in college, that’s how I put myself through school before I joined the military,” said Hodge. “I did a whole variety of jobs that opened up my world. Once I was in the military though, I realized I loved education and that is what I set my sights on. My bachelors degree was in something useless - psychology. Which most of the time requires a PhD or a counseling certificate to be useful.”

 

Having served when fewer women were in the armed forces, her experiences weren’t always positive, but that didn’t stop her from exuding an unbreakable positivity in everything she did.

 

“I was at Malmstrom for five years before I came out here and was in the 576th Flight Test Squadron in their Top Hand program,” said Hodge. “That was an interesting experience. The Air Force had not quite progressed, so some AFSC’s were pretty fraternal. I think I was only the second woman to go into the Top Hand program. It was difficult, but I have always thought that there isn’t men’s work and women’s work, there is work to be done and people to do it.”

 

In two weeks, the base will lose one of its guiding lights. She would often spend extra time working away in her office, putting in many more hours than her job demanded. Her door always open, and shrewd advice always upon her lips. Although knowledge can be replaced, a heart as big as Hodges will be missed.