American Sentinel Graduate Uses GIS Degree to Maintain Air Force’s Global Strike Command and Multi-million Dollar GeoBase

Airman Aims High with Online GIS Degree

Aurora, Colo. – April 25, 2011 – When it comes to GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technology, Air Force Tech Sgt. and American Sentinel University student John Spence, understands the growing need for GIS professionals.

“Everybody uses GIS now,” Spence says. “The very fact people have Google Maps on their phones shows you the prevalence of GIS in your everyday activities. It’s like email: Everybody has to have it. But nobody ever thinks of it as GIS.”

Based in Tokyo, Japan, Spence is the chief of programs technical support at the 374 Civil Engineer Squadron as well as the lead GeoBase technical architect for the Air Force’s Global Strike Command. Prior to these posts, he was deployed. Spence also served as the programs flight technical support chief for the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron.

The Air Force depends on Spence to maintain the multi-million-dollar GeoBase, the geospatial foundation on which numerous Air Force communities can be built. The flying community can use GeoBase as a backdrop for approach and departure corridors on airfields and ranges to enhance training.

Spence plans to serve in the Air Force for seven more years before retiring and becoming a civilian GIS technician or administrator. He chose to work on his online GIS degree, because at every new post he’s had to prove himself all over again to civilian contractors. With a Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Systems, Spence says, he’ll be able to overcome this hurdle and transition to any GIS civilian job.

“This opens up a whole new world in civilian engineering,” he says. Add the online degree to his already outstanding GIS accomplishments, and Spence has a bright future ahead of him.

“American Sentinel University prepares GIS students for the real world by providing case studies of GIS application in the field,” says Gabe Schmidbauer, GIS professor at American Sentinel University. “Our GIS faculty is made up of GIS instructors with extensive professional GIS experience and American Sentinel University teaches students cutting edge ESRI GIS Software applications that can be immediately applied to real world situations.”

From 2006 to 2010, Spence’s team wrote a plug-in to its web-based dynamic mapping software (ESRI’s ArcIMS) to give emergency and contingency responders customized NIPRnet (USAF’s non-classified network) map services during base-wide exercises and real world events. In early 2010, the Pacific Air Forces integrated the various main operating base configurations into a standardized solution—the Air Force Incident Manager (AFIM). They added editing tools to Geocortex Internet Mapping Framework (IMF), an extension to ArcIMS, to allow for quick plotting of incident events, cordons, stand-off distances, emergency response vehicles, vehicle routing, traffic/entry control points and installation sector alarm and MOPP conditions.

This accomplishment led to Spence’s team’s efforts being published in the professional journal Air Force Civil Engineer.

As for Spence, well, he’s eight classes from completing his bachelor’s degree and plans to continue his education in Geographic Information Systems. “I’ll be working in GIS for the rest of my life,” says Spence.

Now is a Great Time to be Working on an Online GIS Degree The U.S. government predicts geographical information system (GIS) occupations will be in high demand in the next 10 years, while recruiting web sites indicate GIS specialists can earn an annual salary up to $70,000.

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the majority of GIS opportunities will be in rapidly growing affluent communities in cities that are developing cartography and database technology. GIS professionals also frequently find work with federal agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, Army Corps of Engineers, Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Imagery and Mapping Agency, and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Whatever the job, one thing is for sure: Recruiters and employers are looking for GIS employees with strong technological backgrounds. It’s especially appealing for individuals to have an understanding in ESRI products, MapInfo or other GIS software packages. They want GIS candidates who grasp statistical analysis and have Oracle skills.

Is a Geographic Information Systems Degree Right for You?
GIS professionals are problem-solvers who like applying technology to new fields. The GIS industry is perfect for someone who wants to work with software that visualizes data rather than displays numbers and charts.

American Sentinel University’s GIS program teaches fundamental business and information technology skills and the specifics of geographic information systems. The program prepares students for entry into the GIS field, but provides training in information systems that benefit other business areas as well. Learn more about American Sentinel University’s GIS degree at

About American Sentinel University
American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited Associate, Bachelor’s and Master’s online degree programs focused on the needs of high-growth sectors, including information technology, computer science, GIS, computer information systems,  and business intelligence degrees. It also offers online health systems management and health informatics programs. The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.