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

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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.

12 thoughts on “Two Years Down | The Air Force Changed My Life

  1. I love when you post. You are really inspiring and as I’m about to enter my Airforce career next month “October” your blogs are calming to me. My potential job is 3d1x1. I’m studying for Sec+ now. I really hope to pass it before BMT. I hope one day we cross path, so I can tell you in person how you been instrumental in guiding me through is process.

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Greg,

      I love when you comment because it reminds me how small and family-like the Air Force is! I am so excited for you and I do hope you’ll stay in touch. I’d love to know where you end up. And there is a pretty good chance we could cross paths in our future. Passing Sec+ is tough, but doable, and I’m sure you will do great! If your heart isn’t set on 3D1X1, I definitely recommend trying for an 3D0X2 (Cyber Systems Ops) or 3D1X2 (Cyber Transport) slot. They make a lot more money on the civilian side and they almost always receive Top Secret Clearances. They also both need Security+.

      Let me know if you have any questions in the coming weeks and good luck!

  2. Hello,
    I am a sophomore in high school and I am interested in the Air Force, but I’m unsure if I want to persu it as a career and who knows how long. I have a few questions for you;
    1. Should I go to college, have a career after college and if I don’t like where I am, go into the Air Force?
    2. How do you know what career is best for you?
    Thank you for writing your blog I really appreciate it.
    From,
    Emily L.

    1. Hi Emily,

      I’ll do my best to give you solid advice on how to enter the Air Force. You could go to college first and try to find a career after, but in my experience, there are more of us in the Air Force with Bachelor’s degrees who wish we had joined first and then went to college afterwards. A four-year commitment right out of high school will give you full GI Bill benefits (AKA Free college) and you can also take a lot of classes while in college. You could come out of the Air Force with a Bachelor’s degree completed if you work hard.

      Many of us who joined with our Bachelor’s degrees did so because we had a lot of student loan debt and couldn’t find jobs we were happy in. However, you can now join the Air Force up to age 39, so if you wanted to do college first and join later, it’s definitely an option.

      As for knowing if a career is right for you… it’s very difficult at a young age to know. I thought I knew, and I changed my major in college like 15 times, which set me on the path of spending 6 years in college and $37,000 in student loan debt. This is why I wish I enlisted first. Working a full-time job right out of high school not only saves you money before jumping into a college degree you’re unsure of, but also gives you perspective. It can show you what you do and don’t want to do. Plus, I would have gotten free college.

      I hope this helps you with some of your questions. Please feel free to reach out if you have more!

      -Liz

  3. Good for you! I love these stories where you go into something like basic training and come out a changed person at the end. I’ve seen enough movies and TV shows (realistic and otherwise) to understand why.
    What caught my attention was how you wanted to go BACK to basic after your first assignment at a desk. So unnatural, whether it’s a cube, a desk, or any workstation that keeps you bottled up for hours indoors.

    1. I think the reason we wanted to go back to Basic was that we had established a solid routine on how to survive, almost like Stockholm Syndrome! When we got to tech school, they changed all that up and we had to readjust and learn everything in a new stressful environment. Basic Training almost felt safer, even though we were given so many new privileges in our new environment.

  4. Your blog posts helped me immensely during my journey to join the Air Force. I’ve read each and every post more than once and it is the coolest feeling when I go back and see blog posts after I have personally accomplished each step I was so nervous about (ASVAB, MEPS, etc). You inspire me to share my personal adventure and journey throughout my enlistment so I can help others who are curious or nervous!

    I also live in Colorado, moved from Philadelphia for love, so I can relate to so many subjects you write about. Especially how expensive it is to live here! My base will be Peterson AFB in the Springs – though I don’t leave for basic until February. I did choose to go reserve for now because I am still pursuing my degree plus my boyfriend is in the Army and can’t move away from his unit.

    Just wanted to thank you for being so transparent with the Air Force and life in general. I always look forward to reading your posts.

    -A

    1. Hey!

      Thank you so much for the kind comments! I love inspiring and helping people, so these are my favorite kinds of comments!

      I can’t believe you’re right down the road in the Springs! Do let me know if you need anything before Basic! I’m always willing to meet up sometime if you want! Reserve is a good choice when you have a plan in place. Plus, it is much easier to go Active duty from the Reserve side versus the Guard side, if you decided you wanted to pursue that in the future.

      Good luck with everything! And again, please let me know if you have any questions!

      -Liz

  5. Hi! I’ve finished cosmetology school and even before cosmetology school. I didn’t have a plan after highschool. I was actually considering maybe joining but once I told my mom about it. She didn’t much approve of it. So, I went to finding something else. I’m really at standstill, like ion know where or what I want to do. I do feel like joining would make a big difference in my life. I’m just looking for a change and a better me. I love your blog it’s very inspiring!

    Trinesha S.

    1. Hi Trinesha,

      I am so glad my blog has inspired you! The Air Force is a life-changer. I have so many positive things to say about it, even when I have really hard days. The benefits are amazing and the people you meet will impact your life forever. While your mom may not approve, at some point, you have to do what you have to do. You have until age 39 to join, so give it some thought. It really is an awesome back-up plan when you need something different in your life.

  6. Hello! One of your posts showed up on my feed and then I followed it to your blog and as I kept reading I realized we have a billion things in common. My husband and I are both from STL, well O’Fallon MO to be exact. He left for MEPS in STL and we are now at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana.

    I myself have considered joining the Air Force but I’m back and forth because I also want to begin a nursing program. I have met with a recruiter but I still don’t know the best way to go. My highest level of education is an Associate degree so I’ve debated on getting my BSN and then joining as an officer. But that’s seems so far out from now and I’d end up with student debt. Now since my husband is active duty I understand that the Air Force will pay for your schooling in you are active and on top of that, you get the GI Bill to use later.

    I get stuck on weather to join now as enlisted and somehow doing nursing school (and clinicasl???) or getting my BSN on my own and then join in the future as an officer.

    So you are active duty enlisted and you’re somehow starting nursing school, how??

    Also if you had a Bachelors degree before you joined then why did you choose to go enlisted rather than officer?

    Help! I just need some insight and it seems like we may be in the same boat.

    Kaylin

    1. Hi Kaylin,
      It does sound like we have a lot in common!

      You will not be able to join and do nursing school unless you are accepted into a commissioning program like the NECP. Nursing school requires full-time student status, which you would not be able to do while Active Duty Air Force.

      If you truly want to be a nurse, I recommend getting into a nursing program and following through with your BSN outside of the Air Force, then commissioning through the DECP. Your husband can look it up on MyPers.

      You could also look at AFROTC programs in your area that also have nursing school and try to commission that way.

      I did not choose to become an officer first because the OTS boards for people with non-STEM degrees were continuously postponed due to too many applicants and people already being accepted numerous cycles in advance. I needed to change my career sooner. I didn’t have time to wait for more boards to open.

      I hope this makes sense and helps. You can always email me if you need more information!

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