College student expands horizon, AF family

by Sara Pavich
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

I like to think I’m pretty good with words. I spent four years of my college career learning how to make them sound nice after all, and for the past four months I’ve been honing these skills at the 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office. None of this valuable work experience, however, has provided me with the words I need to describe what my time working here has done for me professionally and personally.

I went to work in the command information section of PA in the second semester of my senior year of college, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as students on the cusp of the real world will be. It was an exciting time for me; I almost had a journalism degree under my belt and only needed a little bit of experience to round out my resume. I didn’t know what to expect, but I figured I would be writing a small story here and there and more than likely just making the coffee.

It wasn’t until I found myself running around an urban warfare training course with a camera on a cold, rainy day in Baumholder that I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

I realized two things that day as I sat shivering under a tree in my woefully lightweight rain jacket. One: I needed to dig my heels in and prepare myself for these types of adventures if I was going to make the most of my time here, and two: Meals Ready to Eat that come with raisins as a dessert are the worst. Both are equally important lessons, but the former has served me the best.

Since that day, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend my time experiencing almost every type of job the Air Force offers. I’ve watched firefighters extinguish a mock burning building, and I learned what it felt like to breathe at high altitudes through an oxygen mask. I was shot by a paint round trying to capture the “moment” that would make the perfect photo. I wrote stories and took pictures that I was proud to call my own. Sometimes I had bad days and couldn’t get a good photo or couldn’t write a decent story, and I struggled. It was not always awesome. But, I’ll tell you what was. This entire time, I had Airmen and an NCO in charge right there beside me, lifting me up and teaching me how to be better.

Through their valuable advice, constructive criticism and (presumably) good-natured teasing, I grew to be a stronger
and more confident journalist.

As a military brat, I am not a stranger to life in the Air Force. I’m sure the saying is familiar, “Home is where the Air Force sends you.” This has always been true for me personally, and I have always found comfort in the sound of a C-130 flying over my house and the sense of family that runs deep in military communities. I thought this part of my life was over when I left for school but, as it has a habit of doing, the Air Force introduced me to a new home in a place I least expected it.

In this shop, I found a family. It’s not exactly the most traditional one, but I love it all the same. I have been able to spend these past couple months with some of the most talented and driven people I have ever come across, and I can truthfully say I have found a group of friends that will last for a long time to come.

Perhaps I can’t fully convey how thankful and happy I am to be provided this experience (I’m still learning after all), but I’ve done my best for now. I loved every second of my time here, good and bad, and I will carry what I’ve learned wherever I go.