NECP Setbacks | Sometimes, Things Don’t Work Out

It is hard for me to write this, as I know many of you have been following my journey to commission through the NECP since last year. You all know how hard I have worked on my nursing pre-requisites, juggling school and working full-time. I just started volunteering in the Emergency Department at a local hospital to bolster my credentials. I may even go to an intensified night school soon to get my CNA license.

Everything I have accomplished in the last two years was to equip myself for admission into nursing school and the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program. Unfortunately, Big Air Force has other plans.

NECP Setbacks | Rose Colored Water #airforce #commissioning

Career Field Manning

I have written about the 3D1X1 career field before. When I came in, Client Systems was a career field I was happy with because I knew I would learn a lot and be able to pursue a Master’s Degree that would make me a lot of money someday. When my Air Force goals changed (A.K.A NECP), I knew there was a chance that the manning for 3D1X1’s could hold me back.

Last week, those fears came true when my career functional denied to release me to pursue the NECP. 

I am not the only one who was denied. Other critically-manned AFSC’s, as well as other CSTs (Client Systems Technicians), were denied as well. Our career field has been low-manned for years, and I don’t know that the numbers will ever be where they need to be. I don’t know if I will ever be released in the 6-7 additional NECP cycles I will have to apply (if I re-enlist). Right now, as a SrA who could soon make Staff Sergeant, I am simply too critical to the mission, according to the numbers.

I am telling you this as a matter of fact. I’m not mad at the Air Force. I’m not blaming anyone. This is one of those situations where you say…

IT IS WHAT IT IS.

Right now, my chain of command is working the issue, but it’s not looking good for this year’s NECP application cycle.

To put it mildly, I am devastated. I lost my professional bearing and cried in the office when the email came my way. All of the thoughts about failure and what if’s came pouring into my brain. But this is life.

There will be setbacks. There will be failures. Things will be really hard, even when you’ve worked your butt off.

Right now, I feel confused about what to do. Again, I have many options, and many of my future decisions could be made out of fear. I only have a year and a half left of my enlistment. That’s enough to try for one more NECP application cycle before I have to make the decision to re-enlist or get out.

I don’t have to make any decisions right now, but it’s hard to not think about the future. I am a planner. Renavigating that plan is hard for me.

I need to pray about this. I ask that you pray for me as well if you are the praying type.

I still love the Air Force. I still recommend it wholeheartedly. Life is full of disappointments. This may be a setback, but I still have a great job with loving family and friends who support me. I make plenty of money every month and have all my needs met. This is definitely a FIRST-WORLD PROBLEM.

I hope if you’re going through your own setback, you are not letting it get you down. If you have any questions because you may also be pursuing a commission, or you are curious about what AFSCs are low-manned, etc., please feel free to ask. I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have.

Why You Need a Credit Card Before Joining the Military

If you’re 18 years old, you may be shaking your head at this headline. I understand. A lot of people fear credit cards. However, these days, it’s not as easy to get a credit card, and most companies won’t give you a credit limit that can get you in ridiculous amounts of trouble. There are tremendous benefits to owning a credit card before you join active duty enlistment – and it’s all thanks to something called SCRA benefits.

If you're enlisting in the United States military, get a credit card before you go to #BMT. Read why here! #military #airforce | Rose Colored Water

If you’ve never heard of the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA), now is the time. Whether you’re thinking about joining up or already serving, these benefits will change your life. I don’t want to make this post all about the benefits of SCRA though. You can read about those in the link above. I’m simply going to highlight what relates to credit cards and loans.

Everything is backdated.

If you had credit cards or loans before you joined the military, the SCRA will be your new best friend. This is because the biggest and best benefit of the SCRA states that any interest rate on a loan prior to enlisting Active Duty military must be below 6% interest rate. That may not seem like much, but if you have credit cards with high-interest debt (15%, 22%, etc.), or a car loan at 9%, it will now drop to at least 6%.

For me, it looked like this:

  • CREDIT CARDS | I had 4 credit cards prior to joining, all above a 6% interest rate. Most of them had thousands of dollars of debt on them. My CapitalOne cards dropped to a 4% interest rate, and they credited my account with the difference in interest I had paid since my enlistment began. That was about $300. My Discover card dropped from a 19% rate to 6%. They also credited me the amount I had paid in interest since my date of enlistment – around $150.
  • STUDENT LOANS | Most government student loans are already under the 6% cap, but most private loans are not. I had two private loans through Sallie Mae with 11% and 9% interest rates. They totaled around $9,000 when the SCRA benefits went into effect. Before joining the military, I would pay about $80 in interest every month. My payments at that time were barely covering it. After the SCRA benefits went into effect, my interest rates dropped to 4%, cutting my monthly interest by more than half! I have since paid off those stupid Sallie Mae loans.

As you can imagine, these benefits changed my life. The key thing to remember is that most loans won’t qualify if you obtain them after enlisting Active Duty. They must be on the record before you leave for BMT.

The Benefits Remain Through Your Entire Active Enlistment

Probably the coolest thing to note is that your credit cards and loans will remain at that lowered interest rate through your entire active enlistment. As long as I re-enlist, my CapitalOne card will stay at 4%. My Discover card will stay at 6%. These are extremely low-interest rates if you have a limited credit history (like a high schooler) or a lot of debt (like myself).

I have taken full advantage of these benefits and have transferred higher interest debts that I obtained after enlisting, like my car loans, to greatly reduce the amount of interest I pay over time.

Guard or Reserve?

Unfortunately, Guard and Reserve can only receive these benefits when on Active orders, but it is still a huge benefit for you. I had several friends in the Guard take advantage of these while in BMT and technical school. They were given reduced interest rates for nearly 6-12 months. You can also use these benefits when deployed.

If You Don’t Have Credit, Now Is the Time

Let’s be clear here. I’m not telling you to run out and buy a car and get into a bunch of debt. However, if you have considered applying for a credit card and are about to enlist or leave for Basic Training, now is the time to do it so you can take full advantage of the benefits.

If you have any questions, please let me know or you can google the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act. I have highlighted just one of the major benefits in this post. Good luck!

Air Force NECP AY 2018 Requirements + What I’ve Been Doing

Air Force NECP requirements 2018 | Rose Colored Water

You guys… It’s finally here. The time to apply to the NECP is upon us! I have been talking about this for almost two years, and it’s finally happening. I haven’t been around much because the last two years were spent preparing for this.

Air Force NECP requirements 2018 | Rose Colored Water

Changes to the NECP Application

First, let me spin you up on some recent NECP changes. This was the first time in more than five years that AFPC looked at the requirements, deciding an overhaul was needed. Unfortunately, some of the things I hoped to see change didn’t, but some limiting factors were removed. The two biggest changes were the removal of prerequisites from the NECP application and the addition of a video interview.

For example, the NECP once required you to complete certain courses that most nursing schools required. If you were accepted to a nursing school that didn’t require a course required by the NECP, you had to get a waiver and have an academic advisor submit a letter stating it was not required for the program. Now, whatever the school requires is fine with the NECP, as long as the school fulfills all other requirements (AFROTC, under $15k/year, CCNE or ACEN accreditation, under 24 month completion).

Previously, a 250 word essay was required with the application. A 2-minute video interview has replaced that. Thankfully, you have the questions prior to doing the interview, and it will be submitted with the package. It is NOT a live interview. I can only assume they have added this to see if their applicants are professional and look the part that they will be playing (a.k.a. officers).

Schools I Applied For

Over the last four months, I have been applying to numerous colleges and taking the steps needed to gain regular admission to them. I plan on applying to five schools because I don’t want my chances at the NECP to be ruined because I didn’t get into a nursing program.

1. University of West Florida | Pensacola, FL

Everyone I know applies to UWF because they know all about the NECP and set aside slots specifically for military students. They are super military friendly and require more than just a great GPA. I had to take the ATI TEAS Nursing Exam for entrance into this school, and the minimum score to apply is 75%. I made a 77%. I will be taking the TEAS again in January after some much needed studying of anatomy and physiology. UWF also has some additional things you can do to increase your chances of admission, like volunteering and taking additional courses. To ensure the odds are ever in my favor, I will begin volunteering in the emergency services department at a local hospital at the end of December.

2. University of South Florida | Tampa, FL

South Florida is another school that everyone trying for the NECP applies to. This is for the same reason they apply to UWF — they know about the NECP and are very military friendly. USF only requires a high cumulative and prerequisite GPA, plus an in-person interview. I would love to get into USF because I have a friend down there (who met me via my Air Force posts) and because I love the ocean. I wish there was more I could do to increase my chances of acceptance here.

3. University of Memphis | Memphis, TN

I consider University of Memphis my safety school. I wouldn’t mind going there because they have an accelerated program for students that already have Bachelor’s degrees. Admission into accelerated programs is tough, but it has a smaller applicant pool than traditional nursing programs. Memphis is closer to home as well, so that’s a plus. Fewer people apply to this school. They are not as familiar with the NECP, though they do know of it.

4. New Mexico State University | Las Cruces, NM

Believe it or not, NMSU is another school I would love to get into, but also has some steeper requirements. They require the HESI nursing exam, and you must score a minimum of 75% on all components to apply. This makes me nervous based on how I did with the ATI TEAS, because my science score was LOW. Still, I am studying hard and will be taking the HESI in January. I have a bit of an infatuation with New Mexico after my road trip in May. It truly is the Land of Enchantment!

5. Eastern Kentucky University | Richmond, KY

EKU is military friendly and understands the NECP requirements, however, I just decided to apply here a few days ago. Their application process is rigorous, involving a resume, essay, three letters of reference, and a high GPA. I didn’t want to deal with all that and all my end of semester projects, but then I realized that the applicant pool for this program is also smaller. They have an accelerated program that I believe I have a great shot getting into if I can gather the proper materials in time. Plus, Kentucky is beautiful and also close to home. This will take a little extra work, but I believe it will be worth it.

Other Stuff

I submitted my “Intent to Apply” email this week. The rest of the application is due in March 2018. If I do get accepted to the program, I will find out in May 2018 and PCS around July to whichever school I was accepted to. If I don’t get into a nursing school, all is lost for this year’s application.

I can handle the blow of not getting into the NECP my first time, but I cannot handle not getting into nursing school. However, I will absolutely apply to nursing school and the NECP again next year if not accepted.

I also plan on reenlisting for another four years if I am not accepted within the next two. I want to give myself several chances to commission, as I will have many opportunities to try for the NECP in the upcoming years.

In just a few days, my final semester of prerequisites will be complete and I can spend the rest of the year studying for those two vital nursing exams. Then, while focusing on applying to the NECP, I will also begin studying for Staff Sergeant. If I don’t get into the NECP, I definitely want to make the next rank. I will be sewing on Senior Airman in late January, making the cut-off for Staff Sergeant eligibility by the hairs of my chin.

That is the gist of what’s going on so far. While school is ending, there is little time for me to relax. Things just keep moving forward, and I am very excited to see where 2018 takes me. For better or worse, I am staying optimistic.

Anything exciting going on with you?

Two Years Down | The Air Force Changed My Life

Two Years In - How Joining the Air Force has Changed my Life. Could it change yours too? | Rose Colored Water #airforce #military #lifegoals

Two years ago, I went to MEPS with one backpack full of stuff and a fear I could not quell. On that day, I embarked on a journey that transformed my life. Since April 2015, I have written why I enlisted in the Air Force, my experience at Basic Training, my first duty station, and my decision to pursue a commission through the Nurses Enlisted Commissioning Program *NECP*.

Two years in, I can say with confidence that joining the Air Force was the best decision of my life.

Two Years In - How Joining the Air Force has Changed my Life. Could it change yours too? | Rose Colored Water #airforce #military #lifegoals

My First Year in the Air Force

My first year in the Air Force changed the core of my entire being. Basic Military Training was one of the hardest challenges I have ever endured. The military will break you down so they can build you back up again. While the Air Force may not be as harsh on you as other branches, Basic Training still pushes you to your limits.

I survived Basic Military Training, but I bawled myself to sleep for the first two weeks. I wanted to go home and questioned every life decision I had made up to that point. On graduation day, I was the strongest, smartest, and proudest version of myself. I felt invincible.

Then they sent us off to technical school and I felt lost all over again. We had to learn a new schedule and adjust to longer work hours. Many of us wanted to go back to Basic! Even though it was tough and tiring, I adjusted and started learning how to be a Client Systems Technician (3D1X1). Talk about riding the struggle bus! Computers aren’t really my thing, but I can catch on quickly. The learning blocks were tough, but I managed.

Security+ | The Real Test

My biggest fear was passing the ultimate test – Security+. This is a civilian certification that typically requires two years’ experience in the IT field, and we, among other communication career fields, were expected to pass it after two weeks of training. We were offered another chance to take the test if we failed, but we would face additional time at technical school in Biloxi, Mississippi, as well as attending the class again.

Most of us failed our first time. Thank heavens, I did not. I worked my butt off to learn the material – studying for three hours a night and most of my weekends. I also started prepping a month before we were expected to take the class. When I passed (with a relatively good score), I was elated. With a first-time pass, I was able to go home the very next day. Driving back to St. Louis in my civilian clothes never felt so liberating!

My First PCS: Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado

After stopping home to pick up Mots and make sure things were good for our move, I headed on to Colorado. Again, I was thrown into a whole new world. I was terrified to be in the operational Air Force. For five months, I had been told when to eat, sleep, work, study, etc. I had to build another routine, while also looking for a place to live in a huge new city.

Fortunately, the Air Force teaches you how to handle stress. Even though I was scared, I was excited and confident in my new-found freedom and career. Not to mention, I no longer felt stressed about money. I’ll skip the details of when my husband moved to Colorado, but let’s just say – everything was difficult and I stressed about money again.

Upon arriving at my first duty station, I felt overwhelmed by all of my options. Should I pursue my Master’s? Should I try for a different Bachelor’s degree? Could I commission? By the end of my first year in the Air Force, I had a plan to pursue a commissioning through the Nurses Enlisted Commissioning Program, and I started taking courses to make that dream happen.

Two Years Into My Enlistment

The next year was spent taking pre-requisites and learning my job as a CST. I also started developing stronger relationships with the people around me. Some of my closest friends came to me through the Air Force. It is a family environment and you can’t help falling in love with the people.

It was also in the second year that I began questioning some of my life decisions. The Air Force gave me new confidence in my ability to make smart decisions, and also showed me what I truly value in my life. It sounds cheesy, but when you start growing and maturing, you begin to care less about what people think and how they will respond to your life choices.

One of my favorite quotes is from a Bill Murray movie called Lost in Translation. It goes like this:

“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”

This has become a creed for me. It is what I live by. The Air Force has taught me who I am and who I want to be. This transition started around October of last year. It was when I realized my marriage wasn’t working. I also realized I wasn’t giving myself enough credit.

The Crazy Stuff

It was in the second year that I thought it would be a great idea to buy a house with my spouse (like that rhyme?). Thank heavens everything involving the home-buying process fell through and we gave up on the hunt. Unfortunately, because the house fell through, I moved to Westminster, Colorado to help cut my husband’s commute in half. This was a poor decision on my part, and it has absolutely impacted my life negatively.

This past year also brought on the competition for Senior Airman Below-the-Zone. Unfortunately, I did not win, but I was runner-up and lost by a 1/2 point. A good friend of mine won, so I wasn’t too upset, but it still sucked. The board said it was one of the hardest choices they’ve had to make for BTZ in the last several cycles. More on what BTZ is and how to stand-out in a future post.

After losing BTZ, I felt relief that I could begin focusing on what really mattered – my grades and prepping for the NECP. That has been my #1 goal from the start.

How Have I Changed?

Twenty-five year old me is a completely different person than twenty-seven year old me. You wouldn’t even recognize us if we stood side by side. I am bolder, stronger, smarter, and more motivated than ever before. Even though I was always a go-getter, I am better at pursuing what I want.

I owe much of what I have today to the Air Force and the support of my family and friends. My well-being has increased tenfold since I enlisted.

What’s Next for Year 3?

The two biggest goals I have for my third year of enlistment are getting into nursing school and the NECP, and making Staff Sergeant (E-5) my first try. So far, both are on the right track, but I am preparing myself for anything. First, I must be accepted into a nursing program. That will determine if I can apply for the NECP. If I don’t get in, at least I can study hard for Staff testing and look forward to (hopefully) promoting.

I will also be moving when my lease is up at my current apartment complex. My lease will not end until March 18′, but I’ll jumping for joy when that time comes!

Year 3 has potential to be the most life-changing.

Could the Air Force Change Your Life Too?

And that, my friends, is the whole story. Never in my wildest dreams… Life is different. I’ve weathered some amazing and horrific storms since my enlistment began, but it has been 100% worth it.

If you are looking for a change in your life, and you are under the age of 39, the Air Force could be exactly what you’re looking for. I promote it so highly because it has changed my life. The Air Force isn’t for everyone, but it can definitely be the change you need when you feel lost and at the end of your rope. 

If you have questions, please feel free to email or comment. I respond to every email on this topic, even if it takes a while.

Air Force Hair Regulations for Females

Air Force Hair Regulation Females

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I have often been asked how females should fix their hair before heading down to Basic Military Training. It can be confusing navigating the hair regulations, especially as a new enlistee. That’s why I have made a point to write this post. I didn’t fully understand the hair regulations during Basic Training, and I wish I could have found a post like this. All hair regs for females will be highlighted here, from long to short.

Air Force Hair Regulation Females
Before you go to Basic Training, familiarize yourself with AFI 36-2903.

What is AFI 36-2903?

This AFI informs you of every personal grooming standard you could need while serving in the United States Air Force. I am going to highlight the hair portion here.

3.1.1.Hair-male and female. Will be clean, well-groomed, present a professional appearance, allow proper wear of headgear, helmet or chemical mask and conform to safety requirements. Will not contain excessive amounts of grooming aids (e.g. gel, mousse, pomade, and moisturizer), appear lopsided, touch either eyebrow, or end below an imaginary line across the forehead at the top of the eyebrows that is parallel to the ground. If applied, dyes, tints, bleaches and frostings must result in natural hair colors. The hair color must complement the member’s complexion and skin tone. Examples of natural hair colors are brown, blonde, brunette, natural red, black or grey. Prohibited examples (not all inclusive) are burgundy, purple, orange, fluorescent or neon colors. Commander may temporarily authorize cancer patients to wear approved caps (black/tan) or maintain baldness due to a temporary medical condition (i.e., radiation/chemotherapy).

3.1.1.1. Wigs/Hairpieces/Extensions. Are authorized and will meet the same standard required for natural hair, be of good quality, fit properly, and comply with safety, functionality and professionalism. (Note: Extensions are still prohibited for males.) Wigs/Hairpieces/Extensions will not be used to cover unauthorized hair styles. Synthetic hair or other materials are not authorized when prohibited by safety and mission requirements.

3.1.3. Hair-Female. Minimum hair length is ¼ inch, to a maximum bulk of three inches from scalp and allows proper wear of headgear. Hair will end above the bottom edge of collar and will not extend below an invisible line drawn parallel to the ground, both front to back and side to side. Bangs, or side-swiped hair will not touch either eyebrow, to include an invisible line drawn across eyebrows and parallel to the ground. When in doubt, assess correct length of hair with Airman standing in the position of attention. Exception:While wearing the Physical Training Uniform (PTU), long hair will be secured but may have loose ends and may extend below the bottom edge of the collar.

3.1.3.1. The intent is for pinned-up hair to be styled in a manner that prevents loose ends from extending upward on the head. For example, when using a clip or hairpins, hair will not present the appearance of a ―rooster tail. When hair is in a bun, the bun must be a single bun; no wider than the width of the head and all loose ends must be tucked in and secured. When hair is in a ponytail, it must be a single ponytail; that does not exceed bulk and length standards and does not extend below the bottom of the collar (except while in the PTU). As with all hairstyles, a neat and professional image is essential.

3.1.3.2. Hair accessories. If worn, fabric scrunchies, hairpins, combs, clips, headbands, elastic bands and barrettes must match the hair color (i.e., blonde, brunette, natural red, black, and grey). Hair must still comply with bulk and appearance standards. Headgear must fit properly. Headbands or fabric scrunchies will not exceed one-inch in width. Ornaments are not authorized (i.e., ribbons, beads, jeweled pins).

3.1.3.3. Braids, twists, micro-braids, French braids, Dutch braids and cornrows are authorized. A braid or twist is two or more portions of interwoven hair. If adding additional hair, it must be a natural looking color, similar to the individual’s hair color. It must be conservative (moderate, being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme) and not present a faddish appearances. Hair must not exceed bulk and length standards and must not extend below the bottom of the collar (see figure 3.6). Headgear must fit properly.

3.1.3.3.1. All braids/twists, when worn will be of uniform dimension, no wider than one inch, with natural spacing between the braids/twists and must be tightly interwoven to present a neat, professional and well-groomed appearance. When worn, multiple braids shall be of uniform dimension, small in diameter (approx. ¼ inches), show no more than ¼ inch of scalp between the braids and must be tightly interwoven to present a neat, professional appearance. A braid/twist must continue to the end of the hair without design and following the contour of the head, and may be worn loose or in a secured style within hair standards in paragraph 3.1.3 above. Exception: Micro-braids or twists are not required to continue to the end of the hair.

3.1.3.4.Unauthorized: Locs and shaved heads. Locs are defined as portions of hair that have been intentionally or unintentionally fused together to form a loc or locs. Shaved heads are defined as complete removal of all hair to the skin on the head or portions of the head. See figure 3.7 3.1.3.5. Hair color, highlights, lowlights, and frosting will not be faddish or extreme and will be natural looking hair color, similar to the individual’s hair color (e.g. black, brunette, blond, natural red, and grey).

AFI 36-2903 Female Hair

If you look above, you will see a lovely drawing of what hair is supposed to look like in the early 1980’s. The rules still apply today.

I know all that is a mouthful, but do you get the gist? I’m going to share some Pinterest images of long and short hair styles that will work in the Air Force to help you have a better idea. The shorter styles will make your life easier in BMT, but I’m not one to judge. Some people really love their hair.

A Breakdown of the Air Force Hair Regulations:

  • If you have long hair, it has to be in a low bun that allows you to properly wear a cap. Many people braid it and wrap it around the base of their pony with similar colored bobby pins and rubberbands.
  • Gel helps keep flyaways down and assists with pinning bangs back.
  • The bulk of the bun cannot sit more than three inches out from the head or three inches across the back. It can also not sit lower than the bottom part of the collar of your uniform.
  • I cut my hair as a pixie cut when going and it made life so much easier. The big thing with pixies is they can’t look boyish or faddish. No shaved sides, etc. No extremely long wisps in relationship to the back of the hair.
  • Pixies are great but the bangs grow out fast. You’ll have to keep some bobby pins to pin those back when they start getting close to the eyebrows because the hair cannot touch the eyebrows.
  • You can wear hair over your ears with short styles. This is something I didn’t think was allowed. I always put my hair behind my ears thinking it had to be that way, but I was wrong. You can keep it a bit shaggy on the ears if you want.

Long Hair Bun Links

Because it’s illegal to post other people’s photos on here, I’m going to link to some really great images on Pinterest.

Short Hair Links

I love short hair in the military. It is so easy, and one less stress during Basic Training.

I do not recommend getting a long bob style. If it is close to the bottom of the collar on your ABUs, they will make you go get a haircut at the place on base, and they are TERRIBLE. Go with something that won’t need cut or trimmed for more than two months. Don’t worry about how it looks – no one cares. I looked terrible during Basic, but I never wasted time on my hair like the other girls did.

Whatever you choose, follow the regs and you will be fine. Your MTIs will help you, in a firm and disciplined way, if you’re not getting it right.

Let me know if you have any questions! Learn more about the Air Force on my page “Interested in Joining the Air Force?