GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
I had done it. I had doubted I could for a minute, but I had graduated U.S. Air Force Basic Military Training. I could feel the weight of my Airman’s coin in my pocket as proof.
These were the thoughts running through my mind as I sat outside of the building that I had been staying in for the last week of training. The large group of trainees murmured, waiting to travel to their next base to complete the next level of training. We were all excited and wondering where this next step would take us.
I was the only one in the group bound for Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. I found this intriguing, why is the Air Force training Airmen at an Army fort? I would later find out that the school where they trained all branches in public affairs, was located on Fort Meade.
I had a wingman who was flying out of the same airport as me, so we processed our luggage then went to the USO room to hang out and wait for a couple of hours before we had to board our separate flights.
I had not known about the USO prior to joining the military. The location in the San Antonio airport was nice, friendly volunteers helped you check in, there was plenty of seats to relax in until it was time for you to fly out, which made things easy. There were snacks, coffee, phone chargers and somewhere to put your bags until you were ready to go.
After killing as much time as I could without missing my flight, I gathered my belongings and headed to the terminal. I was once again on my way to experience something brand new to me. I wondered how it was going to be different from basic training.
I had less nerves about flying alone this time. Now, I was just contemplating what awaited me in Maryland.
Once I arrived in Maryland, I made my way to the USO at that airport where I had been told that my military training leader would be picking me up. It didn’t take long for them to arrive. I grabbed my gear and headed to the van that would take me to my new home for the next six months.
As we drove, I was awed by how similar this state looked like home. There was plenty of trees and green all around. There were differences in the architecture, which was mostly old colonial brick buildings that I hadn’t seen much prior to arriving here.
Once we arrived at the detachment, a squadron geographically detached from its training group, I went up to what would be my room and dropped my stuff off, waiting to put it away until I had received all of my in-processing briefs from my MTLs.
The one thing that I regretted was being in basic training an additional two weeks, due to this I would not be able to start class on time, and I would have to wait almost two months to start with the next class.
When I was waiting to start class, I was in what is known as ‘casual status.’ I hadn’t started class, but was still required to be in the training environment and keep myself occupied and out of trouble. I also had to remain available for any tasks an MTL may have for me. I accomplished this by being on “charge of quarters”, door guard, for a week. Another way I stayed productive was by going the school and working for different sections completing various tasks they needed. I worked in the library some, shelving and re-organizing books, but the group I spent the most time working for was the command section, answering phones, taking messages, cleaning and taking out the garbage.
I enjoyed it, I was staying useful while working toward my next phase of training and ultimately more freedom. When you first arrive at tech school, you are in the basic training phase. In this phase, you still have to be in uniform at all times and you may not leave base except for special occasions, such as volunteering at an event.
Once you earn your intermediate training status you are allowed to wear your civilian clothes, go off base after duty hours and you may even submit a special request to spend the weekend off base, as long as you remain within a certain distance in case of a being called back.
The hardest thing about being in casual status so long, was watching the other students go through their courses and knowing I wouldn’t be attending classes with any of the friends I had made. Soon enough the rest of my class would be at the detachment, and I would be able to get to know them and begin class.
Once classes started I was busy! We were taught the equivalent of two years worth of college level journalism in 87 training days at the Defense Information School. We were learning our cameras, going out and taking many pictures practicing the techniques that we had been taught in the classroom. We were also taught the journalistic writing style. I had to re-wire the way that I had knew how to write from previous writing classes. In this type of writing, the focus is on the facts. You may be descriptive, but accuracy and making sure not to use describing words to add your own flavor or opinion to a story is paramount.
While at the detachment, I became a student leader. This included having more responsibilities, such as before an issue went to the MTL to be solved, it would go through student leaders. We were in charge of accountability. On the weekends, unless there was an emergency, we handled everything. Making sure that everyone was able to enjoy their weekend and stay safe.
This meant less free time, but I didn’t mind. It helped me learn how to be a leader amongst my peers.
Being in technical school, I started to realize more and more that this is no ordinary job. Yes, I was going to school every weekday, and most of the time I had the weekend off. But being a student leader meant that I was always on call. Always there if someone needed help.
There were tough times, times when I didn’t want to be the one people came to. But I learned to put that selfish part of me to aside and lend a listening ear to those around me. I also found some friends who would listen to my rants, on those days when it seemed like nothing was going right. They would listen, then help me get my head back into the right space and tackle the next thing that came my way.
I gained new mentors, in the form of instructors that I could contact with any sort of question that I may have down the road related to public affairs, or my career. I knew they would always be there to help me become the best Airman that I can be.
I made many memories with friends while in Maryland. I went to my first baseball and hockey games. I was able to explore some gorgeous hiking areas, but most importantly, I learned where you are is only a fraction of what makes a duty station good or bad. It is also the people you surround yourself with, and the attitude you have while there.