Home > IFS, The Journey, Training > The means change, but the end remains the same.

The means change, but the end remains the same.

‎”Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

This definitely won’t be an easy entry for me to write, but it’s one of those that must be written. As my friend Zach said (in a roundabout way), “It’s not there to be just about the good…it’s there to be the good, the bad, and the ugly.” This is a blog about my life, ups or downs. The goal of this blog isn’t to go on and on about how successful I am, or how lucky I am…It’s to tell my “Journey” that of a 2d Lieutenant. An officer, in the United States Air Force. Not a pilot, not a 92T0, not any other career field, but an officer. That has always been my “end” and being a pilot in the Air Force was the means…It just so happened that the means to that end was doing something I have always dreamed about and thought would be cool. Fifteen years I’ve thought and “dreamed” of flying…during that whole time and as time went on I slowly realized that my first job and the real desire was to serve, and lead…to be an Air Force Officer and lead some of the best people in the world. Growing from a boy into a young man…I moved on from the fixation of just doing something “cool” and going fast…maybe even blowing something up, to wanting to serve the Air Force in the best way I thought I could. Using my skills and abilities in the best way, to best serve the Air Force. That of course was to be a pilot, but again, I was an officer first…a wingman, warrior, leader. The more training I went through, the older I got, the more people I talked to…I realized this more and more. My goal, my ambition, my desire, my destiny, my future wasn’t revolved around being a pilot, but an officer. The end result, was being an officer.

For those that don’t know yet, which is surprising (news travels really fast around the circles of people that read this…be that good or bad) but I dropped from Pilot Training during initial flight screening. I completed three of the four weeks, and I finally made a decision at the end of week three to drop. I never had any real thoughts of not wanting to be a pilot before I got to IFS. Looking back on it all though I think I should have seen the writing on the wall when I was an aviation major in college and switched to political science. How I felt then (freshmen year of college) and how I felt at IFS were very very similar, just IFS was multiplied by several degrees due to the intensity and the situation. I didn’t enjoy the aviation major, I didn’t even like the environment/atmosphere of it all. That same environment and atmosphere is the same during pilot training and here. At times it’s fun, but it’s not exactly my cup of tea. Any day I had to fly (during college and at IFS) I dreaded it…Getting in the airplane I did fine, on par…wasn’t terrible….but I just didn’t enjoy it. I switched to political science (my interest) and loved it, even the not so awesome classes. It also was a decent backup in case I never got a pilot slot…for intelligence. I should have taken that feeling back then and stuck with it…but I felt that it was just civilian flying and this wasn’t the real deal. Of course IFS isn’t the “real deal” persay either…but it’s pretty darn close to what Undergraduate pilot training will be like for a year+ and a lot of the same stuff you’ll do on active duty.

What it all really boiled down to at IFS was really one thing…the same as college. I didn’t enjoy it. It wasn’t for me. Every day I spent at IFS the thought and feeling kept growing in my head and in my heart. I was steadily losing more and more sleep by week 3. I passed every single quiz, and test on the first try. I knew most if not all of the radio calls, challenges, callouts…my procedures were a little behind the curve but that’s mainly due to me getting airsick during three flights and unable to really learn. I was on par with most of the class, and was doing fine. I guess I could have stuck it out and finished, but I’d be in the same situation I am in now. Why prolong the inevitable if you know what is in your heart is true?

So what happens next…Well I’m considered “DOR” or Drop on Request. It’s not really frowned upon, as we are saving the air force some time and money by us not starting pilot training and dropping then. Which from “rumors” (and this may not be fact or not) but if you drop from UPT your chances of reclassification are slimmer. We were told when we first got here that if we aren’t sure then drop early…because our chances of staying would be better. What happens is the Air Force starts a class every three weeks…say there are 20 people in each class…IF 20 start and 10  drop, well the Air Force will forever lose those 10 slots. They can’t advance people and have them “hurry” up to fill forward…They are gone. Thus, initial flight screening is emphasized more and more (especially so during times like these where there are cutbacks and force shaping going on.) The goal and purpose of IFS is to “screen” the pilot trainees to see if they can make it when they start pilot training. Something to keep in mind though, this is a screening process for you as well…for you to decide if this is what you want to do for the next 10-11 years of your life (or even longer) in the Air Force.  For me, It gave me a taste and my fears were confirmed…it wasn’t for me. Probably the bigger fear for me was the fear of either making the wrong decision (enjoying flying but it was just IFS causing it) as well as the fear of deciding to drop, and then not being retained in the Air Force. As far as the first fear goes, I’m pretty darn sure that it’s not for me…a part of me would love to fly an airplane…but not as a job. If I could fly  maybe once a month then I think I’d be fine. Or even just riding in one or something. The second fear is much more real. Anyone that washes out or drops out of initial skills training is being looked at for two things…to be retained or not, and then reclassification. What happens for me first is I fill out some paperwork that gets submitted to my commander. I meet with him and he’ll get a vibe for my situation and he’ll write a favorable or an unfavorable recommendation for me to either advise the board…to retain me, or not to retain me. If I am not retained then I leave the Air Force, a better man than what I started…with a lot of lessons learned, but without the life I really enjoy. I seriously love being an Air Force and serving my nation. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else…this is…my life. If I am retained, I then meet another board to decide my new career field (or classification) in the Air Force. I fill out a “dream” sheet in advance with my top five jobs. Intelligence is of course number one…followed by space and missiles, communication, contracting, and security forces. Once I am reclassified I then go to that training.

It’s definitely a big step….the plus side is while I’m waiting my “fate” I stay at Laughlin and continue my casual duties, which is being a gate guard. I still get paid, I still have a place to live, and something to do.

The main thing is being happy with life…and I really do believe that my happiness isn’t flying…it’s being an intelligence officer and putting what I studied in college to use in some way. My senior year I took a ton of Middle Eastern studies courses…and I loved it. Hell I love almost everything dealing with political science, and all the different jobs in intelligence are right up my alley. I really believe that “this is what I was meant to do.” My path has kind of lead me here, even if it were a bit longer and out of the way than it could have been. But that’s part of living, that’s part of finding that path…and traveling on it. Something at IFS just made me wake up and see it…and by last Friday I had my “Epiphany” and knew that I was on the wrong road. I know it’s hard for some people to understand…especially some of my peers…the ones that know that flying is their path, they really can’t see how I view it all. At first when I had all of those feelings of this not being for me…I blew them off, attempted to cover them up and bury them…hope they’d go away and that everyone had those thoughts…I was afraid of dropping and then not being retained. Afraid of being meant to fly and making the wrong choice. It’s incredibly hard to want to do something for 15 years…and then to just change from that. Many people that have known me that long see me as “Michael the future Air Force aviator” …they don’t associate me being an officer first…it’s being a pilot. For me for the first couple years it was the same way. Even contemplating dropping made me feel like a failure…Like I couldn’t hack it. I never fail at anything.Any challenge I meet and overcome it. I don’t fail, it’s not in my vocabulary. By the time I made my decision I didn’t see it as failing. I still don’t. I could have completed the program, but I knew it wasn’t my path anymore. I dropped, I didn’t fail out, I didn’t get terminated because I wasn’t pilot material. My skills, abilities, and assets are meant to be used elsewhere…I was meant to do something else. I believe I was meant to be an Intelligence Officer, but time will tell if the Air Force puts me there or not. Regardless of what career field I get I know I’ll do it well. I’m only a little worried about not being retained, just because it’s not guaranteed. The same goes for being reclassified to intelligence, but something just tells me that It’ll all work out. What I was meant to do will happen, it just takes time. I wish to serve my country, and hopefully that will be as an Intelligence Officer…but I’ll do it anyway I can.

And a side note…The people are what make the Air Force so amazing…

Part of me is definitely worried, scared, and nervous about the future…But I need to just have faith…I still don’t like the fact I’m not in control of my future. That’s when I just have to keep reminding myself    “Control what you can control…the rest will work itself out.”

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Categories: IFS, The Journey, Training
  1. Becky Lathrop
    25 August 2010 at 18:41

    You are wise beyond your years. You have a good head on your shoulders and things will work out. The Air Force will see what an asset you are to them and they will keep you. There is no doubt in my mind. But, if they don’t then it will be their loss. God has a plan for each one of us. Sometimes it just takes time to figure out what the plan is. Some people take longer than others to figure it out. You, on the other hand, are ahead of the game. You are young. You are an officer in the USAF and that is major. I have told you before and I will tell you again that I am proud of you no matter you do. I love you and keep the faith.

  2. Tiffany Schlemper
    26 August 2010 at 14:40

    Hey mike.
    It was a good post. Well-written. It got right to the heart of the matter. I don’t think anyone who reads this will think you made a wrong decision or think poorly of you. You are obviously wise, capable, and devoted to your country and the USAF. a.k.a. you’re a darn good officer.
    I’m proud of you.

    Good luck with retaining and redes…. I’m sure it will work out too. I’d be very surprised if they let this one get away from them…

  3. Shew
    27 August 2010 at 20:42

    2 things.

    A.) Its not “communication”, its “Cyber” now buddy.

    B.) And your coming to CYBER! See you in a couple months, Keesler and Biloxi arent bad. Look forward to your future as a Cyber Warrior.

    Just kidding. I know exactly how you feel. Officer first, professional second. You’ll be alright. Later.

    • 27 August 2010 at 20:44

      so all of Communication is Cyber?…I didn’t know that. Well everything I was using to look crap up said Communication and Information.

      I want intel yo! But I’ll take anything. I love the Air force and serving. I actually want to deploy.

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