FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Education has become synonymous with success, and success is what students on Fort Rucker achieved as they attained their degrees.

Thirty-four students walked across the stage to receive degrees, ranging from associate's to master's, during the Fort Rucker Army Education Center graduation ceremony at Wings Chapel June 16.

"What a great day to celebrate the accomplishments of our college graduates," said Dr. Beverly Joiner, Fort Rucker deputy garrison commander, who spoke during the ceremony. "Today we honor and recognize the exceptional accomplishments of people in our Fort Rucker community. Your positive attitude coupled with your aggressive educational goals helped you attain your degree -- job well done!"

Of the graduates, made up of Soldiers, spouses, Department of the Army civilians and veterans, 15 students completed their associate's degrees, seven completed a bachelor's degrees and 12 completed master's degrees.

For Soldiers, only 15 percent of the Army achieves an undergraduate degree, and 1 percent achieves a graduate degree, according to Randy McNally, education services specialist. And although the graduates are part of the few, they are also part of a growing trend.

"You all are setting the pace that others need to follow," said McNally. "I'm pleased to see the new changes in the education focus and commitment being made by our leaders. At this pace, it will not be long before civilian education degrees will be required for Soldiers to enter the NCO ranks and beyond. You all are prepared for this challenge."

The Army initiated the Select, Train, Educate, Promote program, which falls under the NCO 2020 program, requiring Soldiers to attend leadership courses before being promoted through the ranks, said Joiner.

"This will require Soldiers to require stronger academic skill levels to prepare for promotions," said the deputy garrison commander. "Even though a higher education degree is not an official requirement for advancement to a higher enlisted rank, many of the Soldiers who are competing for these levels of leadership have degrees.

"The Army is moving forward with this development in the hope that Soldiers will eventually achieve an associate's degree by the end of the first enlistment and a bachelor's degree by the end of the second enlistment," she said. "I encourage you to not stop here -- to be a life-long learner. This is just the beginning."

CW4 Jacob Williams, Air Traffic Services Command, graduated with a master of arts in executive leadership and said it takes sacrifice to achieve one's educational goals. Although, at times, the journey can seem overwhelming, the destination is well worth the effort.

"Some of the most meaningful things in life are not attained easily, but must be worked for, and an education is no different," he said. "The sacrifice require encompasses more than just the students, though, as all of their friends, family and loved ones also have to sacrifice while these individuals work toward accomplishing their dreams.

"I think my wife was happier about me finishing my degree than I was because I could finally spend more time with them than with all of the work that was required for my degree," he continued. "My father once told me that the only thing that you can gain that can't be stolen from you is knowledge. While that might not be 100-percent accurate, the underlying meaning is very relevant -- knowledge is power, and to get knowledge you must actively pursue it."