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The Journey and the Dream, Reignited

25 August 2013 4 comments

I’ve been waiting to write this post for a very long time. For a while there, I thought I would never again update this blog. After Almost three years exactly to the day I officially commissioned into the Air Force, I took the Oath of Office for the Indiana Air National Guard. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. It’s been a long road of waiting and patience, but it’s finally starting to pay off. I am now officially an Intelligence Officer (though I have yet to go to San Angelo for training.) Since swearing in, I’ve had multiple drill days, and it sure does feel amazing to put the uniform back on. I cannot explain how much I missed wearing the uniform. I definitely enjoy my civilian career, but I couldn’t be happier to know I finally can serve my nation again.

Currently as it stands right now, I am waiting for my security clearance for final approval. Once that is completed (and it should be very soon) I will be able to get dates to go to Intel school. I am very excited for that! As of right now I am just a traditionalist for the Guard, so I just do one weekend a month currently. There are several full time opportunities out there with the base as well as around the nation, and hopefully things will line up for me to be able to do that. At the moment though, I’m not going to be greedy. Being a traditionalist is more than I could have hoped for, but of course I definitely want to do more. I have this ever burning desire and fire within me to serve, to do my part. Every step I get closer to being able to do something is amazing. I am extremely blessed to be able to have this opportunity again.

The Air Guard has definitely been amazing towards me. It is a small base compared to an active duty base, but it’s like home. Everyone knows everyone else somehow, and being in the same city where I’m from definitely makes it interesting. I’ve run into numerous people I know from around the area, one way or another. That’s something you didn’t really have on active duty, even though the Air Force would still bring you back together with people half a world away. The guard base feels different, it actually feels like a family. They look out for one another, and they genuinely care.

After all of my bad luck when it comes to the military, a couple of things have actually gone my way. During my first drill in May I found out that they have sign on bonuses for traditionalists. I had no idea I could get a sign on bonus for doing something I already wanted to do. Here I am wanting to sign up for as many years as I possibly can, and then they tell me I get $10,000 for being an Intelligence Officer and serving three years. Lets just say I was completely shocked. The second thing is my rank. I had talked with a Major over lunch and he was in a similar situation as I was. He had been active duty for several years, and got out as a Captain. He then had a long break in service and came back to be a traditionalist at the base. After several years he got promoted to Major, but when he promoted the question was raised on why it had taken so long for him to actually make Major. This was because his time in grade was far more than he actually needed to pin on Major. He had no idea what they meant so after doing some digging he discovered that his time in the Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR) counts as time in rank. He said that they would form up about once a year to basically do roll call and make sure contact info was still up to date. What the IRR does is allow the military to have a pool of people that have had some military experience on “standby.” They aren’t paying them, they aren’t training them, they really aren’t doing anything other than being in this “parking lot.” if the need ever arises where they need people for a conflict and must call upon people to serve, these people in the metaphorical “parking lot” would be pulled first.  I wasn’t completely sure that I was in the IRR myself until about two weeks before I swore in I had to fill out a paper to pull me from the IRR. Unlike the major, I was never told to do anything and I had no knowledge I was actually in the IRR. Thus my break in service (almost two and a half years) counted as time in grade for me. Promoting from 2d Lieutenant to 1st Lieutenant is purely a time based thing. After two years you are promoted. This holds true in the guard as well, but there is a bit of paperwork that goes on behind the scenes. As of right now I am still a 2d Lieutenant but once the paperwork is processed for the “list” of people that are due for promotions in the next several months, I will then become a 1st Lieutenant. This is still over a year quicker than I thought I would promote. I originally thought that I would have my seven months of service and I would then need to be in for a year and five months before I could then promote. Lets just say having both of those pleasant surprises has made it quite nice to be back.

As far as everything else goes…I still have my civilian job with Enterprise Rent-a-Car. I just transferred from Lubbock to Terre Haute with them. I did take a bit of a pay cut (different regions pay differently) but it’s definitely a lot better here than what I experienced in Texas. It’s fun to be in an area I know the people, as I run into people at random times coming to rent cars. I also got promoted with them recently by finishing the management training program. The job is going well, I certainly cannot complain, but it’s not the same as being full-time military. I am counting down the days when I can finally go to intel school and get started back into things full force.

Lastly, I want to thank all of you. Thank you to everyone that has supported me and kept the dream alive. I couldn’t have done any of this without people like you. Thank you for reading.

The End of Act One

I am officially no longer in the Air Force. As of December 27th I have been honorably discharged from the Air Force. I was “in” for a total of 7 months and 9 days…that’s pretty surreal. I was able to live my lifelong dream since age seven for a whole 7 months and 9 days. Nothing about my active duty career was awe-inspiring to me, nothing really ground breaking or changing of the world. I did a month of flight school (it sucked) I did six weeks at Air Space Basic Course (probably the highlight of the entire 7 month career) and I worked a gate checking IDs for four months. There’s nothing glorious to any of that, I didn’t change the world, I didn’t change anyone’s life. It was all extremely lackluster. Given all the potential I thought I could have in the Air Force, all the big things I thought I could do, all the stuff I could influence…and here I am no longer a member of the military. It’s hard to comprehend, hard to deal with, and most of all it sucks. But it’s a new chapter in my life, or as I like to call it the end of “act one.” I learned tons from all my training programs and lessons from the Air Force and ROTC. I’ve met some awesome people, had some great times, and saw quite a few places.  Most of all the Air Force and ROTC has made me who I am today, and without all of that I would be a totally different person. It sucks I couldn’t have a twenty year career or something in the Air Force, but God and life have a different path for me.

So what happens next? That’s what most people ask me…Well my plan A is joining the FBI either as an Intel Analyst or Special Agent. I’m moving to Lubbock, TX in a matter of like 3 days. My girlfriend currently lives there, so that’s one reason, but I also want to apply to the FBI via the Dallas Field Office given I have a contact there. When applying for a Special Agent position you go through the Field Office you reside in., thus Lubbock works out perfectly. I’ve also been living my life in the past fifteen years (since I’ve wanted to join the Air Force) so concentrated on the future and the end goal of finally being in the Air Force. I’m tired of living life like that, tired of letting the good moments of the present go…I want to live my life in the moment, live each day to the fullest and see what doors open for me as I go along. I’m kind of a new man, with nothing really holding me back, and thus I’m going to take full advantage of it.

Plan B is some other type of Intel agency or government related agency. Most of these require me to probably be in Washington DC. Something like the Secret Service, CIA, DIA, and other agencies.

Plan C is to join the Air Guard. Given my experience with the Air Force this is why it’s the last option. I want to do some type of government service but I’d rather explore the civilian sector first and put my clearances to good use. The Air Guard would also be much easier for me to get into, as I am already an officer, and already have a lot of training. This is also only a part time job, and it’s hard to get a “full time guard slot.” This is more so a backup backup plan…but it’s of course an option.

Regardless of what I end up doing, I know I’ll find out what will make me happy. I didn’t enjoy flying (for work, I still want to go back and get my private) so I took the known risk (which we were told was quite small) that I would not be retained in the Air Force. I’m now living with that decision, and would still do it again if I was in the same position even today. You have to follow your heart if it’s telling you that something isn’t right. This required me to walk away from something I had planned for, for over 15 years. It’s hard to deal with the fact your heart isn’t in something you thought you always wanted to do…but the fact is there is no “lets give this a whirl” until the stage I was in at IFS in which I figured out it wasn’t my path. I’m now moving forward into a new Act of my life.

I have the rest of my life ahead of me and I’m going to ensure I live it to the fullest. This means more trips to places I want to go, more time with those I love…more phone calls to people I need to talk to more. Life is too short, I’m going to grab it by the horns and enjoy the ride. So here is to following your heart, following that voice inside your head when you know something isn’t right. Following your true calling even when it means leaving behind something you always planned on. Because in life, plans change, things change, people change, places change. Life is full of twist and turns and it’s not about the destination, but about the journey. For the first portion of my life I was so focused on my destination, and not on the journey. Now I’m going to enjoy the journey, until I arrive at my destination…whenever that may be. Because we don’t really know when that time of meeting our final destination is, and I don’t want to get there with some regret of something I didn’t do, something I didn’t try. So here is to Act 2 of my life. Let’s enjoy the ride.

Lastly, given this is the end to my Air Force career, it is only fitting that this be my last post in the blog of “airfocelt.” If you still want to keep up with my “journey of life” then head on over to michaelmerlinus.wordpress.com I’ll be updating it on stuff from here on out.

To all my readers, whomever and wherever you are, thank you. Thanks for reading, thanks for taking the time out of your crazy crazy lives to read about what a 23 year old guy is trying to do. It really means a lot. I know a lot more people read this than I ever thought would. I’ve got family reading and staying up to date that I never thought would even touch a computer. I’ve got friends I haven’t spoken to in years using it to stay up to date, and I’ve got people that I knew would always read it. Regardless of who you are, thank you for your support. Thank you for your inspirations, your words of encouragement, and the pats on the back when things didn’t work out how I had planned. But my head is held higher than ever, my sight is set on the horizon…and without such supportive friends and family I couldn’t have been so positive about all of this. I owe you all more than words can express. Thank you.

2d Lt Michael Hart

One door closes, and new doors open

Hello everyone! Here’s a quick update on everything.

Right now I’m working on doing my out-processing in preparation for my Dec 27th separation date (I know awesome date right?!) I should have most of it done come next week. I’ll be off my job starting next week so I can focus on that. Tomorrow morning is actually my last day on gate, which is actually kind of sad. I’ve made some pretty good friends here, and the crazy thing is they are all enlisted airmen I work with at the gate. They are all pretty sad to see me go, and they’ve made the whole casual status here much more enjoyable. I’m glad I got a position like that, I actually wish I could have had 12 hour days with all of them (yeah I know right, I wanted to work longer days so I could work with them longer!)

 

This very well could be the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Everything happens for a reason right?

My family and friends have also rallied behind me to toss out ideas or give support. Mom and Martin working on the Air Guard option. Among other people just giving me positive support. I couldn’t have such a positive attitude or be so optimistic if it weren’t for all of these people. Dad and Barb just being there to talk to, Grandma Shirley talking to me about God’s path for me (which helped as well.) and the rest of my family like Michelle, Grandpa Terry, and Aunt Sue just ensuring I’m doing alright. Thank you everyone. I owe you all many thanks.

Until next time.

The End of Active Duty: The Whole Story

11 November 2010 9 comments

Well, I don’t know where to begin with this entry really. I thought the one about dropping from Pilot Training was difficult, but this takes the cake. I wanted to write it sooner rather than later. The more time I let pass the less emotion I feel.  At this moment it’s been 18 hours since I was notified, so the wound is still quite fresh. I’m writing the entry so I can always remember, so my friends and family can better understand, and so the situation I found myself in with the Air Force doesn’t happen to other people. I’m going to be pretty honest, and I’m not going to sugar coat anything. People need the facts, and not empty promises or maybes. That’s what I got, empty guarantees and “Oh you’ll be fine!”

So here’s the whole story. I may be mentioning stuff from other entries, but here we’ll have it in the entirety. I dropped from Air Force Pilot Training back in August while at Initial Flight Screening. I didn’t enjoy flying, and some might say it’s just because IFS is hard. It is hard, and it’ll be a wake up call, but you either enjoy it, or you don’t. No matter how much it sucks it comes down to either enjoying being in the aircraft, or not. For me, I didn’t enjoy a moment of it. Flying wasn’t for me, and I experienced the same feeling when I was flying on the civilian side. I realized (with some divine guidance from God I believe) that I wasn’t meant to be a pilot, and instead needed to follow my passion…using my political science degree and going into intel. I talked to the Air Force side of things at Initial Flight Screening. I was told (and this is not verbatim) that if I dropped from Pilot training, I would meet a board to retain me or not and a reclassification board. I asked if they had any stats on how things have been looking recently with reclassifications. They didn’t have any numbers for me there, but after asking around back at Laughlin I had heard that 90% of people were being kept. I decided to drop because there isn’t any sense in the world to do something you’re miserable with. I didn’t want to fly for 12 years and hate it, or take the gamble that it would “grow” on me. I’m a dreamer, and I have big goals but I’m also a realist. The whole flying gig might be cool at first, but it’ll get old, and eventually those pilots will be sitting behind a desk too. Thus I was done with IFS on 20 August 2010, and went back to Laughlin.

Once back at Laughlin, the ball got rolling rather quickly for me to put my package together for reclass/retention. I wrote a one page memo explaining my situation. The memo detailed why I no longer wanted to be a pilot, that I wanted to go into intel, and why I was qualified to do so. On top of that I filled out a new “dream sheet” which had my top five job preferences. I also met with the Squadron Commander who wrote a recommendation on what to do with me. I don’t know what it said, but he has to deal with a ton of these cases a month…I am by no means a special case, or a rarity in this realm of things. He didn’t really know me, and he’s a busy man, so I’ve heard that we all get averages, which would make sense and seem only fair. Some people during the reclassification process have a better chance than others though. You may work for a Col, or a commander of some sort, and they can drop a good word for you and make things happen. It’s how the world works, it’s networking at it’s finest, even if I disagree with that. We all should be on an equal footing, but since we aren’t I’ll play the network card when I go to get a guard slot. I have no hard feelings towards anyone here at Laughlin though, they’ve all been great officers, and quite helpful. I guess I should have just worked in some office than being a gate guard, but that’s what I was assigned. I was dealt that hand, so I was going to play it.

The package went up and we waited, and waited, and waited. Two boards before mine, seven people from Laughlin met the board. All seven were retained. Five of the seven were classified as logistics officers, in which none of them had it as their top five, but at least they got to stay. One was classified as a scientist, and I think (don’t quote me on this) that the seventh was engineer. The board before mine I don’t know the specifics on jobs, but everyone was retained. Then came my board. My board I believe was the last board of the fiscal year. We have no real control when we meet the board and we don’t…we can’t try to push our package back, or push it forward, though I’ve seen odd things happen with some people. One guy submitted his package before I did, and was supposed to be in my board, but happened to be “pushed back” into the board after mine…and we’ll talk about it soon. My board called “009” had a total of 19 people in the Air Force. Four were from Vance AFB, 7 from Laughlin. I don’t know the numbers on Columbus AFB or the Naval Air Stations. Vance had 4 of the 19 people meeting the board…all four were separated. When I say separated I mean they were asked to leave the air force, and discharged within 30 days. This was last Tuesday when they found out 2 Nov 10. We kept hearing rumors and what not and I was unsure what to believe, but then we got some info. Only two people were retained out of the entire board of 19, both from Laughlin. Today we finally had our meetings with the Wing CC. My good friend Brandon and I both had meetings, along with 3 other individuals. Two people weren’t on the list for the meetings, and thus we knew most likely that these were the two that were being retained. Sure enough we were right. One was classified to weather, and the other to a Navigator slot. The five of us with meetings were all notified that we would be honorably discharged in 30 days and separated from the Air Force. That means I get to find another job. If you’re keeping up with the math, 17 people of the 19 people meeting my board were asked to leave the Air Force….never before has their been a board where so many people were not retained. We weren’t told why, it could be the end of the fiscal year and lack of slots, but all of us had clean records…I don’t even have a parking or speeding ticket to my name. It’s not a lack of anything, besides the fact I made the conscious decision to drop out of initial skills training (for me being pilot training) to pursue an avenue I thought I would enjoy and do better at. I was doing the Air Force a favor, and doing it at IFS instead of during UPT. We’re told if we do it during UPT that you’d definitely be done, and separated, so I made mine early. It turns out this didn’t matter at all. There are various situations that bring you to reclassification. It could be you drop out of IFS or UPT…Dropping at IFS is supposed to make it better than dropping at UPT. You can also be medically disqualified. The last is failing out (washing out) at either IFS or UPT. We’re told that fails at IFS sometimes can track to other rated career fields (Remotely Piloted Vehicles, Air Battle Manager, or Navigator.) This is true since one of the two retained went to navigator. UPT fails are usually not allowed such luxuries. I know for certain that myself and Brandon were IFS Drop on requests. Another guy not retained was a UPT fail. A fourth guy was an IFS fail. Across the board we were all asked to leave and will be discharged. To also give everyone some idea of how new this type of trend is…My flight commander in graduation flight has been here since April (longer than I was on active duty) and he never dealt with anyone being separated. Today he dealt with four.

Now many people are wondering why this is happening, and how this could happen to me. Well a lot of it is bad timing, I happened to be in a board that they didn’t have many slots for reclasses…end of the fiscal year most likely. The Air Force is seeking to eliminate far more people dropping or failing from initial skills training than ever before. What that means is your assigned career field is your career field, if you want to switch you run a high risk of being in a position such as my own. Either stick it out, or take the gamble like I did. Of course I’m telling you, your chances aren’t too promising at the moment, and I dropped with the impression and was told by many officers I’d almost be guaranteed a reclass since I didn’t have a negative record. False! False! False! During this time in the Air Force they are riffing people. That means Reduction in Force. The Air Force is only allowed 300,000 people and there is no telling how many people are leaving the air force on a yearly basis. Many people are sticking in longer than anticipated because of the down economy. At the same time the Air Force is continuously training new people to come in…ROTC, Basic, Academy…all have people graduating at a regular rate and joining the Air Force. Combine that with a lack of people leaving = an Air Force that’s over cap and thus over budget, cuts have to be made, and people have to be cut. The focused areas are people not completing initial skills training (like myself.) or people with negative records or criminal charges. Used to be a DUI wouldn’t seal your fate, now getting a public intoxication just might. The Air Force is looking to get rid of people, so keep your head high, nose clean, and stay in your training.

Now the future isn’t as bleak as one may think. The board after mine, had 9 people go up from Laughlin, and six of them were retained. I wish I could have met that board, but nothing I can do about it. It’s luck, and timing. The next board may cut over half of people…or worse, you just don’t know. Also, the Air Force may be in a situation in a year or more where they cut too many people, or too many people left…and thus they need people. People with an honorable discharge like myself, can still sign back up.

Another thing that the Air Force is doing is making people pay back tuition assistance. My friend Brandon is in a position where he accepted an ROTC scholarship (so did I) and the Air Force helped pay for his tuition. Now that they’ve separated him, they want to get that money back…So they notified him that he also must pay back all of that tuition money. The same thing can happen to people from the Academy, and it seems to be a case by case basis. The UPT fail from Laughlin was an academy grad…it said he owed money but it would be sent up the chain to be recommended he not have to pay it back…He’s waiting to be contacted by AFPC (Air Force Personnel Center) to see if he pays it back or not. My situation is basically the best you can be in. I have nothing I owe the Air Force. I took a scholarship but never used a dime to pay for tuition. I used  the stipend and book money only. My tuition was paid for by the good ole state of Indiana, who I hope to be serving in a matter of months via the Air National Guard. So if you’re in ROTC now and reading this…use other scholarships first.

Now some of you have asked me, or may be wondering, what am I going to do now?  Back home in TH is an intelligence Wing, for the Indiana Air Guard. Intel just so happens to be the career field I wanted to go into in the Air Force! I’m now going to do the rest of my 30 days and then go back home and work on trying to get into the Air Guard. Of course this would be as a traditional guardsman, which means one weekend a month type deal…but I’m going to apply for a full time spot whenever one may be available. I don’t really know how I can pass this opportunity up. It’s back home, it’s what I want to do, and I know plenty of people out at the guard base. I already have the necessary clearances, I’m already an officer…I just need the Intel schooling. Once I get back I’ll be going out there and meeting with a couple of the officers to see what I can do in the mean time. The officer board doesn’t meet until Spring when they select their new officers. I have a pretty good shot (but we know what guarantees get you so I’m not going to bank on it until it’s a done deal.) In the meantime I need to find something to pass the time and pay the bills. But I’m quite optimistic.

I just want to finish off with…I am pissed off, I am upset, and I am disappointed I couldn’t stay active duty. I enjoyed almost every minute of active duty. All the people I’ve met have been awesome. The Airmen I worked with were the best part of being in the military, and they were enlisted! I don’t blame anyone at Laughlin, or even the Air Force as a whole. They have a manning requirement and due to the economy people aren’t leaving as projected. They did what they had to do. I took a chance (more of a chance than I realized though) to do something I would enjoy far more than flying, and this is the end result. I don’t regret it, and I’d take the chance again even if it meant the same result as this. You have to follow your heart. You also cannot be constantly scared of losing your job, living with that fear will inhibit you to be the best officer you can be. I wasn’t going to stay in something I didn’t enjoy when I knew I could do better, be happier, and kick more ass elsewhere. All it means is I have to serve my country in a different capacity, but I’m still going to be in the military come hell or a high water. I was born to serve, and this may be a little stumble, but I’ll pick myself up and be a better officer because of this experience. The only thing I wish was that people in my situation or contemplating the same thing that I did, knew the numbers of retention and the chances of reclassifying. So that’s what I’m doing, giving people the information to make an informed decision. Just remember, don’t do something you hate just because you’re scared of losing your job, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Take a chance, and do what you love. Only you can make that decision though, choose your path, and find what makes you happy. It’ll turn out, I know it will. It’s your life, grab it by the horns and throw caution to the wind. Live with no regrets.

“When it comes to a point you’re scared of losing your job on a regular basis, you’re in the wrong place. You need to find what makes you happy, and that’s not living in fear.” -Rob, contractor at Laughlin

This wont be my last post =). I’m not finished in the military quite yet.

Home is where the Hart is =)

17 October 2010 1 comment

I haven’t updated because well, there honestly hasn’t really been anything worth updating about (save a couple trips which is what I’ll mostly be talking about in this post.) Casual status is still very much casual, but I have been getting assigned more additional jobs.

A quick side note for those finding this blog for info about ASBC and the like…my posts about my time there is accurate, but if you compare it to what people are now experiencing you’ll probably get a bit different info. They’ve taken out the week at blue thunder (and not sure when they’ll give you the training we learned there during ASBC now.) They’ve also changed the first briefing around, but I believe the doctrine briefing is still the same. I’ve got some friends there so maybe I’ll update about it when I talk to them. But now back to a day in the life of!

So let’s see, September 7th was the last update, what has happened since then… I went on a weekend getaway to San Antonio in September. On October 6th to October 13th I was back in Indiana also for eight days of very much needed leave. Other than that I’ve mostly just been at Laughlin.

The highlight of my past couple months was definitely going back to Indiana. I hadn’t been home in five or so months (since may,) and hadn’t seen most of my family and friends in that same length of time. I know it may not seem like a long time, but I’ve never really been away from home save like a month at a time. I attempted to cram in as much as I possibly could into those eight days. Time with my fraternity brothers, eBash friends, family, other friends…I was definitely running on empty by the time I got back to Texas. I definitely think I made the most out of the trip, and couldn’t have really asked for much more. I had plenty of nice surprises and good times to hold me over until my next visit. What’s depressing is that visit will probably be the last time that I can really see so many people. When I go back again many of my pike brothers will have graduated (at least the ones I was pretty close to like Josh and Jason, among those I went alum with that are still finishing up.) A couple other friends will have graduated and moved on, and who knows who else may not be there anymore. So that was kind of a downer when I was leaving…knowing that once again things were going to change and that regardless I had to accept it.

Tuesday night was spent at the San Antonio airport waiting for my 6am flight. I drove my car over to the Mitsubishi dealership near the airport in order to get some routine maintenance done to it (why not it’s still under warranty thus almost everything is free.) If I were to park at the airport it would have been like $90 by the time I got back, while I spent only $20 for my car maintenance…I was thus stuck at the airport since I had no car. I decided to go to the USO, which turned out to be an amazing idea since they were doing Air Force basic training in-processing by the USO. I then got to watch wave after wave of new basics in their civilian clothes to go off to basic for many weeks. In tow of the basics were several TI’s who were yelling and yelling…I found this quite humorous and enjoyable to witness. Also at the USO were around fifty or so newly graduated security forces two stripers on their way home or to their first assignment. It was fun being able to talk to all these airmen who have been in about as long as I have, and to see their perceptions about officers and the air force.

Wednesday was spent on a plane, in the car, and then finally back home in Terre Haute. I stopped by and saw mom at school, which brought her to tears of joy. I then went to my fraternity house and saw a bunch of my brothers that night. It was fun seeing everyone’s reactions as each person saw me for the first time since last may. I almost felt like I had celebrity status for eight days while I was home. Thursday I spent some time at eBash and got to see my friends there. I was sure to see Cliff, Kyle, Fred, and Ashley on my trip also. I played Dead Rising 2 with Cliff and I don’t think I’ve had that much fun in a co-op game…ever. Friday, I visited Megan at work and found this amazing book about Indiana micro-breweries that I instantly bought for Fred and Ashley. I was finally able to give it to them on Monday when we met for lunch, and I swear those two looked like kids on Christmas morning. It made me pretty happy that they liked their gift so much.

Friday/Saturday were spent doing homecoming festivities. Friday was the trike race, which I was able to see some ROTC peeps, and I also got to see more pikes I hadn’t seen yet. I had dinner with Mom, Martin, and Michelle that night. Something we of course don’t get to do very often now, and probably wont happen again for a long while, so that made it pretty special. It was great timing that I was back home for both My sister and Step-dad’s birthdays. Later that night several of the pikes and I went to the Bally, and I definitely spent a little too much due to my newly gained “alumni” status…which led to me buying several drinks for most of the people with us, including the AXO’s that I was friends with. Bree was there also, and it was nice to catch up with her.  Had a nice surprise while at the Bally that certainly made the trip even more epic. Saturday morning started at the Bars at 7am…which would last until finally making our way to the Pike Tent at 2pm via “The Walk.” I’m unsure if I’ll ever do that thing again…haha. It was pretty fun for the first couple hours going to each new “establishment” and running into the same crowd you started off at 7am with. As the day progressed and you kept seeing the same people over and over again, you steadily grew happier and louder at seeing them at the next establishment. I ended up doing most of the walk with Liz, Cainan, and Jared. That was fun being able to see three people I used to see quite a bit at eBash, but since then we had gone our separate ways. The best part of it was it was completely unplanned and I kept losing various people I had been with before like Josh and Jason. I also saw the three of them that night when I went back to the bally (and by that point I couldn’t believe I was still awake since I hadn’t slept since 11am Friday.) SO a big thanks to Liz, Cainan, and Jared for keeping me company on the walk!

Sunday I went to the Colts game, and I must say I got to go to one hell of  a game. I took my dad as his Birthday present. We’ve never really had too many chances for there to be “Father and Son” activities besides maybe going shooting once in a while. Even far fewer chances now that I’m over 18 hours away (by car.) The game was against the Kansas City Chiefs (which WERE the only undefeated team in the league.) A very amazing turn of events during the game was the fact that 3rd string running back Mike Hart ended up playing the entire second half…in which he scored the only touchdown of the entire game. My mom and step-dad have season tickets (and gave me the tickets to go to the game…so a BIG THANK YOU there.) There seats are behind one of the goal posts which also happened to be the endzone that Mike Hart scored. I was going nuts (so was dad.) The only thing that could have made it better would have been the fact that I would of had my Mike Hart (number 32) jersey on Sunday for the game, instead of it arriving the next day on Monday =(. Good job scoring that touch down and doing our name proud Mike Hart.  After the game we got to see my sister for dinner for her birthday. It was really nice to have both my dad and sister there for dinner…the only thing that was missing was Barb ;).

Monday I got to see Fred and Ashley for lunch. I had dinner with Mom and Martin for Martin’s birthday. We went to Texas roadhouse (I found this kind of humorous since I live in Texas now) but the food was good! I’m going to definitely miss being able to go out to dinner with everyone. I went over to the fraternity house and got to sit in on the end of chapter. I then went to Kyle’s house where we failed many many attempts at getting an age of empires II game going. Instead we played age of mythology. After that Kyle, Logan, and I played Halo: Reach for several hours which was really fun. I wish I could do that more often!

Tuesday I spent the last of my time with friends from eBash before going my Dad’s house to have dinner with Dad and Barb. Barb cooked my favorite dish she makes (ravioli), and earlier in the week Mom cooked my favorite dish (Chicken Pot Pie.) A big thanks to both of them for cooking for me  =).

Weds I packed up and flew back home….

Something I really realized while being back home is that it’s the people that makes a place home. It’s not the fact you have trees, corn fields, or cactus (though being able to see the leaves change in Indiana was a nice added bonus to my visit) It’s the fact that you’re surrounded by people you care about and that care about you. I like Laughlin, because that’s “home” since that’s where I am…(Home is where the Hart is) but I still miss all of those people I got to see while being back in Indiana. The trip was so “epic” because I got to see so many people that I care about with and that made my 22 years in Terre Haute so memorable. You will all be very missed. Thank you for making my eights days of leave so amazing. I hope to see everyone again soon. I have an amazing family, and quite a few pretty awesome friends. I’m pretty lucky!

This weekend was fun and relaxing. I stayed in Laughlin and played video games/spent time with some friends.

Now I’m back at Laughlin and back to gate guard duty mixed with other random jobs. It keeps me busy and I’m getting paid so I’m certainly not complaining at all!

As far as my reclasification process…I got an email last week saying that I had “Met the board, and the board was still underway.” I should hear something relatively soon I think.

I’m looking to do a road-trip one of these weekends before long. Might go to Lubbock and see a friend or two and  I earned a “one day pass” for working the combat dining-out and putting in a ton of time for that, so hopefully I can take a three day weekend.

Thanks for reading! I promise to update more regularly!

 

 

Casual Status Part 2?

7 September 2010 Leave a comment

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated mainly because…there hasn’t been anything going on…at all. Just been doing my casual job (still doing gate guard.) I’ve been working out quite a bit, probably the most ever? I also have a decent amount of free time, so I’ve been putting the new TV/Surround sound system to good use.

As far as the casual job goes it’s nothing “glorious” but I really enjoy being able to get to know the Airmen that work the gate with us. I’m actually really looking forward to hopefully be working in some manner where I’m in charge of people and helping them…leading them. Being their “LT” so that they feel like they have an officer really looking out and taking care of them…I get some mixed feelings from enlisted folk when you talk to them about their superiors, especially from different branches. I have tons of examples of things “not to do” but I’ve also seen some great officers, some great leaders. I’m confident I can do a great job regardless of the job they give me. So I may not get a lot out of just “checking IDs” but I do get a lot out of all the people. Even being the first face  people see when they come on base can make a huge difference. It may be a small thing that people don’t really think about, but it’s true. Someone is always watching, and you never know what they will see be it good or bad. I’m trying to take every opportunity and just do it the best I can.

Which brings me back to making the decision to reclassify. My feelings haven’t changed, though occasionally I see the planes and play the what if game. That’s mainly due to me not being in my new career yet, and I’m just doing gate guard. But once I get in that airplane my feelings would just be right back to dreading every moment of it. It may look “cool and fun” from the outside as an onlooker, and of course it could be if you’re just along for the ride. I like the fact of flying, and being up in the air…but I didn’t enjoy it that much where I wanted to do it the next 11 years of my life. I see flying more as something I’d enjoy as a hobby, as something to do on my “off time.” I look at it as similar to my job at ebash (a video gaming center I worked at in high school and college for those that don’t know.) I loved video games tons before that, but when I worked at eBash (www.ebash.com) I started to like video games less and less… it took away from the joy and the fun of video games. They say do what you love, but should that mean make your job the same thing as you really enjoy? Professional athletes just don’t only do that “job” as their hobby. I enjoyed video games less when I worked at eBash than before or after I worked there. The people and my friends being there is what made the job fun and enjoyable. It helped it was something I had a ton of background in and was pretty good at, but I didn’t enjoy my hobby anymore. I see that exactly the same way when dealing with flying, and it being my career. I would enjoy flying once a month or week or something just for an hour to get up and fly around…but as a job? For everyone outside looking in, it’s easy to make and pass judgments about it…for the pilots that enjoy it…it’s easy to pass judgment on. Those that haven’t been there and haven’t experienced it, they wouldn’t know if that’s for them or not either. And those that enjoy it and want to continue doing it, well it’s easy for them to think you’re crazy for dropping from the thing they enjoy. Those things just piss me off, but it doesn’t make me second guess my decision. What’s done is done and I’m glad I made the decision and I’m hopeful of the future. People can talk trash all they want, my happiness is what really matters.

I met with my commander and turned all the paperwork in so now it’s in the hands of the Air Force. The Col said the likelihood of retained is really really good, and he’s never really seen it go the negative way for people with nothing negative on their record (like myself) and a person that drops as early as IFS. He also said that in terms of reclassification he almost always sees people get reclassified as one of their top two, and I have a strong case for intelligence, so I should hopefully get that. I’d be happiest there, but I’d be happy serving my nation and being a leader for airmen regardless.

Also talked to one of my brothers who’s in the FBI today about the career opportunities of going from the Air Force as an intel officer to the FBI, and the likelihood is really really good…so there we go, already a career option after the Air Force. I’d like to stay in the Air Force as long as possible though, but working for the FBI would be pretty awesome.

Well time to go to gate guard duty!

The means change, but the end remains the same.

25 August 2010 5 comments

‎”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.”

Categories: IFS, The Journey, Training