As I prepare for retirement after 28 years and depart Ramstein Air Base and Germany at the end of the month, I was asked to reflect on my career.
It is a bittersweet moment for my wife and I, since we literally grew up together in the Air Force. We met in 1988 and married in 1989. During that time, we have traveled to nine assignment locations, raised our children, and watched when it was time for them to raise their own. Though our location, job, and housing may have changed, the one thing that was steady for us was a safe place to call home, the U.S. Air Force.
Included in the ever evolving years was ironing the old Pickle Utility uniform to stiffness equal to cardboard, and then donning three more uniform variations. Not without mention, the switch from naming conventions in our force from branches to flights, aircraft generation squadrons to aircraft maintenance squadrons, regulations to instructions, and Airman Performance Reports to Enlisted Performance Reports.
If that wasn’t enough, compared to what Airmen endure today, long term deployments in the ’80s and ’90s lasted around 30 to 45 days, usually to some type of great hotel in places like Paya Lebar Air Station, Singapore, or Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska for hardship training.
With every new change came wonder, worry and questions. However, we prevailed and so did our Service.
The constant changes strengthened my family and introduced my children to various cultures. I met lifelong friends and amazing mentors, and of course, turned our blood from bright red to “Air Force Blue.”
If there was one bit of advice I would leave anyone that’s newly commissioned or enlisted, or even if you’ve been around more than eight seconds ― embrace the Air Force. It will toss you around when you need a change of scenery; it will upset you when someone talks negatively about your Air Force flag; and it will make you cry when it’s time to leave.
It’s something that becomes a part of you ― if you let it. Embrace the service, and you will work a long and happy career. I wish you much success and happiness as you serve our great nation, and I will rest comfortably knowing that our service is in great hands.