A new life was waiting for me. At 19 years old, I was leaving everything I had grown to love or learn to live with: my friends, my family and my home. I was anxious to get on the plane, but I couldn’t leave without one last hug from my parents. It wasn’t like the quick hugs I’d give to my friends before we enjoyed our weekends from school. This time I embraced my mom and held her, ignoring the occasional glance from a passing stranger in the bustling airport around me.
The stewardesses called out for my flight; thus, my journey began.
About 4,500 miles later, I was at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, sore and exhausted from the seven-hour flight.
Stepping off the plane and out of the terminal, I surveyed the area while trying to shield my face from the harsh sunlight — European hatchbacks and large, foreign trees surrounded me. It became clear I was no longer in rural Illinois.
Visiting my work center, I was quickly established as the new Airman of public affairs on Ramstein. I was assigned a camera bag and a voice recorder and was told my mission — to capture and tell the stories of Airmen across the Air Force.
Not long after arriving at my shop, I was assigned to go through the First Term Airman Center.
FTAC is a weeklong course that gives first-term Airmen the necessary tools and guidance to help ease their transition between training and the operational Air Force. I met people that wanted me to feel as if I wasn’t living away from home, but rather in a new one.
The sense of scale I gained from FTAC surprised me. I learned that Ramstein is a grand machine with dozens of cogs inside of it, and no matter the size of the cog, each one has to work in order for the machine to properly function.
However, it wasn’t the lessons I learned sitting in a chair that stuck with me the most; it was the group of friends I found that made the days so much more enjoyable.
With these friends I had a way to safely travel around Germany. With them I experienced my first trips away from Ramstein to truly immerse myself in the culture. We endured long, beautiful train rides and enormous, loud soccer matches in interesting cities like Augsburg, Gelsenkirchen and Mainz. These trips are times in my life I will never forget.
To my pleasant surprise, FTAC wouldn’t end up being the last time I worked alongside these friends. I was then selected to participate in a two-week program in which Airmen are tasked to help keep Ramstein the beautiful base that it is.
Both weeks I was overwhelmed with sunshine (the kind with warm air that begged for outdoor activities and transformed your car cabin into a stove). It was a truly amazing time, and it only made me more excited for what’s next.
Now, I am back working in my shop. Looking back on these already eventful four weeks, I’ve realized how much I have to be thankful for. When I was walking away from my family at the airport for the last time, I would’ve never fathomed that I would call Ramstein a home.
However, here I am with awesome friends and an inviting group of people to work with — it’s truly a new life I’m excited to experience.