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The DOD Doctorate

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jakob Hambright
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. – Education serves as the cornerstone of our ability to effectively serve others. It empowers individuals to innovate, collaborate, and implement solutions that have a positive impact on those around them.  

For Tech Sgt. Brandy Preston, 56th Operational Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment lead trainer, her pursuit of education and subsequent work in her local community has guided her to what she views as her purpose. 

“It’s been one of those things where I realized I’m walking in my purpose, and this is what I’ve been called to do.” said Preston. “There are so many people out there struggling, and it gives me peace of mind knowing that these people see me as someone they can sit down and talk with.” 

Preston started her education before joining the U.S. Air Force, earning an undergraduate's degree in psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. After joining, Preston went on to Liberty University, where she achieved her master’s in clinical mental health counseling, followed by her doctorate in community care and counseling, specializing in traumatology, which she finished in January of this year. 

While pursuing her graduate degrees, Preston had to adapt her daily lifestyle to manage the extra workload.  

“I started getting up at 3 a.m., which gave me three hours to do schoolwork,” said Preston. “After that, I would go to the gym at 6 a.m., then immediately head into work at 7:30 a.m..” 

On top of changing her daily routine, Preston’s leadership ensured that she would have even more time to achieve her goals. 

“For the master’s degree, one of the requirements was completing a 600-hour internship,” said Preston. “My leadership was super supportive, so they put paperwork in that allowed me to go to the internship two days a week, in exchange for working a ten or twelve-hour shift, instead of my usual eight.” 

Now a certified and licensed counselor, Preston works at a local counselling center, specializing in helping first responders dealing with trauma. 

“I mainly work with first responders like military, veterans, firefighters, police, and others who deal with past traumas that they need help talking about,” said Preston. “I also counsel a lot of women dealing with sexual assault and harassment, as well as prenatal mental health.” 

Preston also found a way to benefit the Air Force with her education, now being able to mentor and help her fellow Airmen. 
“I get a lot of mentorship opportunities, especially with my troops and other Airmen within my work center,” said Preston. “Most of them are just starting out in their education journey, and I’ve been able to help them navigate the process of starting school and being able to use their tuition assistance and other benefits.” 


While the challenge of choosing the right school can be difficult, Preston emphasized the importance of doing research before making that decision. 
“The biggest tip I would give someone is to take your time and choose what schools are going to be a good fit for you and that are flexible and accommodating to those in the military,” said Preston. “My schools had military support departments that worked with my schedule and were even able to help me get various military discounts that the schools provided.” 

Having completed her education goals, Preston now looks towards her future goals and endeavors.  
“Eventually I’d like to open my own private practice,” said Preston. “Either focusing on first responders or a women’s clinic that is more holistic and approachable than some other options open to people.” 


Preston’s education journey, while unique, is just one of many examples of the benefits that Airmen have access to while serving.  These benefits are available to all who don the uniform every day in support of the mission of the 56th Fighter Wing and the U.S. Air Force.