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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.
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.