Cain is able: Online MCJ Student Excels as Navy Air Traffic Control Airman

Brian Cain: BU criminal justice student

Brian Cain: BU Online criminal justice student

Selecting him as the sailor who went most above and beyond his military duties, officers at the Naval Air Station Oceana named Brian Cain as their command’s “Blue Jacket of the Quarter” earlier this spring. A husband and father who volunteers as often as his schedule allows, it was an acknowledgment of the Air Traffic Controller Airman’s dedication to serving his family, his community, and his country.

And, he says, of his decision to study criminal justice online through Boston University’s Metropolitan College.

“There is no doubt in my mind,” he said, “it was my enrollment in a Master’s Degree program at BU that earned me this honor and title. Education is highly encouraged and respectable in the Navy.”

That respect and appreciation has helped pave the way for Cain to pursue a pair of dreams since deciding to enlist in 2009, after spending the early part of his career as a defense contractor who designed and built prototype armored vehicles and body armor while frequently traveling to the Middle East and West Asia.

A Utah native who then lived in Oregon, Cain didn’t want to relocate his wife and son when his company moved to California – so instead he decided to join the military. And education was among the motivating factors. About a year away from completing his Bachelor’s degree, he already had his eye on a Master’s that would help him meet his end-goal of working in a federal agency, and he knew the Navy would allow him the opportunity to do continue his education while moving closer to that career.

He began his military service with boot camp, where he was chosen as Recruit Chief Petty Officer among a division of 96. Then he went to get his air traffic control certification at “A School” in Florida, where he was tabbed class leader and eventually graduated second in the group. Then his orders sent him to Norfolk, Virginia, where he is currently stationed – and where he began his experience with Boston University.

By then he’d completed his bachelor’s through the University of Phoenix, so Cain was a veteran of online education — but he says “I knew if I was going to be competitive in the workforce I needed a Master’s Degree from a very reputable school,” and after some thorough research, he found what he perceived to be a perfect fit.

“I discovered that Boston University not only offered a distance education program in the field of criminal justice, but they also have a preferred relationship with the FBI,” Cain said. “Once I learned this, I was determined to attend Boston University.”

That determination paid off when he was accepted to the CJ program, and when he began taking classes in January 2011. This term he’s taking White Collar Crime, the fourth course in a 10-step process that’s left him absolutely convinced about the quality of his education and BU’s lofty status in the field of distance learning.

“I originally enrolled at the University of Phoenix because of a referral from a friend. The school offered convenient classes and degree programs, so it worked for me at the time. However, in comparison to Boston University – there isn’t one,” Cain said. “Boston University gives you the feel of an on-campus environment, camaraderie, established real professors, and a challenging curriculum.

“The best part about BU’s program is the high-quality curriculum,” he continued. “Every course and topic is challenging and rewarding, and I feel as if I am acquiring the knowledge and skills I will need to be successful in the workplace. BU’s program has also armed me with the confidence I needed to become a professional in the field of criminal justice.”

He applies his training on a daily basis, having been qualified as Chief of the Guard while assigned to the Base Security Force in Norfolk. He said his educational background in criminal justice created the opportunity, and while he can’t fully describe his duties because of the sensitivity of security information, he is responsible for the safety and security of all watch standers and waterfront security operations.

It’s a job that requires him to rise at 3 a.m. – or 0300, as he puts it in military time – and report to work by 0400. He’s there until about 1730, and after squeezing in a run or a workout he’ll join his wife Melissa and their son Cody for a family dinner. After that he’ll play with his son for about an hour, then Cody goes to bed and Brian begins his school work. The cycle repeats each work day, while off-days are consumed by errands, yard work, volunteering – and whatever homework he was too tired to finish in the days before.

It’s a lifestyle Cain says wouldn’t be possible without his wife’s support, but it’s one he’s confident can someday lead him to work in a federal agency. It’s one that’s already earned him commendations and honors within the military.

And it’s one being enhanced by his experience with Boston University.

“I tell everyone about how great BU is. I tell them there is no better program offered by any other school, and they should make every effort possible to gain acceptance here,” Cain said. “BU not only is one of the most credible schools, they are also very helpful the entire way. Anytime I have a question or a problem, their staff quickly clarifies or resolves the situation.

“BU gives you the tools to succeed; if you do your part, you cannot fail.”

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WHAT WAS YOUR LINE OF WORK PRIOR TO ENLISTING, AND WHAT DID IT ENTAIL? I was born and raised in Orem, Utah, and moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2004 to work as a defense contractor for Armor Systems International. I designed and built prototype armored vehicles and body armor for military and civilian use. I traveled frequently to West Asia and the Middle East. I also went to Pakistan often to assist in product development that protected world leaders and dignitaries. I have to say my favorite place to work and travel was to Dubai in the UAE. Dubai is a beautiful and friendly place to work and visit. Traveling around the world was always a good reminder of how blessed we are to live in the United States.
WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY DUTIES OF AN AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER AIRMAN, AND WHAT MADE THAT A POSITION YOU WERE INTERESTED IN PURSUING? At the command I am currently in, rank is not a prerequisite for training opportunities. Regardless of pay grade, if you put forth the effort and show a desire to learn, they will let you train and receive Air Traffic Control qualifications. Air Traffic Control is an extremely serious and critical rate in the US Navy. There is no room or acceptance for error when controlling aircraft, military or civilian.
I was interested in the (AC) rate because of the excellent training and certifications that transfer over to the civilian sector. I knew that whether or not I pursued a career in Air Traffic Control, being an FAA certified Air Traffic Controller could only help a resume.
THE NAVY ACKNOWLEDGED YOUR VOLUNTEER WORK. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF? TIRELESS? PASSIONATE? COMPASSIONATE? I try to do as much volunteer work as my schedule can allow without jeopardizing the well-being of my family. I would describe myself as compassionate, not only for those around me but also for the betterment of society. I guess I feel that if I want my community to be a better and safer place to live, I must be actively contributing to the cause. I also volunteer because I am well aware of the power of example. As others see the example of those actively engaged in a good cause, they also begin participating and volunteering. I know that my impact may be small; but when many unite, we can make a great difference.
HOW HAS YOUR MILITARY EXPERIENCE COMPARED WITH YOUR EXPECTATIONS? I would say that the military experience has met the expectation I had coming in. I have found that the military offers great training and many resources to its members, but it is up to you to take advantage of them. There is a common saying by military leaders that is often quoted, “We give you all the tools to succeed, but it is up to you to use them.” I will say that I am impressed of how well the military views the “big picture”, every job, every training session, and every piece of equipment has a specific place and responsibility in the mission of the armed forces; it is amazing to see how the well oiled machine works from the inside.
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO APPLY THE LESSONS YOU’VE LEARNED IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROGRAM TO YOUR WORK AS PART OF THE BASE SECURITY FORCE? I am currently TAD (Temporary Additional Duty), assigned to Base Security Force here in Norfolk. When I saw the opportunity to work in a security position, I immediately volunteered for the opening. This Security TAD is between 6-18 months long, afterward I will return to my normal duties as and Air Traffic Controller. Here I have received great training in weapons and law enforcement; I have also received many important security qualifications and certificates. Due to my educational background in Criminal Justice, I was given the opportunity to become qualified as Chief of the Guard. … I can say that the criminal justice program at Boston University has not only given me the knowledge of how to be a criminal justice professional, but just as importantly has armed me with the confidence to do address any situation I may encounter.

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