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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.

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

Time to Fly – Week 2, as the Stress Multiplies.

Week two has finally come to a close. This week was definitely tough and it was a challenge along the way. I’ve always been pretty sure of what I wanted to do in life, but this past week really made me start to ask that question “Is this made for me? Do I still want to do this?” I don’t think I’ve ever had such thoughts before, be that good or bad. It was a challenge to deal with such thoughts, but then again this is IFS…this is the one time in our flying careers that flying is going to have this much suck.

For those people coming into IFS with a ton of hours (one guy in my flight has 1800+) than it really wont be that bad. For those of us with only a little time, or even no time at all (I have 13 hours in a Cessna 152) well, things are a little more rough. After all this is a screening process, it’s to really test us to see if we’ll stick it out and not just waste the Air Force’s money.

I flew four times this past week, everyday but Thursday. My Monday flight is your “intro” flight called a “dollar ride.” It went alright for the most part but I did feel a little nausea from the flight. I flew with the same IP again on Tuesday and Wednesday. This IP was alright, but I really wasn’t learning too much from him…he’d usually just correct the mistake himself instead of teaching me how to do it. It also didn’t help that I got active airsickness (actual vomiting)  on Tuesday, and then passive airsickness (Nausea that made me relinquish controls to the IP) on Wednesday. At this point my mind was a mess. Anytime I thought about flying my body would feel ill and not really encourage me to try to fly again. I switched Instructor Pilots (IPs) on Thursday and he could tell I wasn’t feeling well/doing well. I took Thursday to rejuvenate and study up for Friday. My Friday flight went about 300% better than the previous flights. I didn’t get airsick and only had a very momentary period of nausea. My new instructor is pretty awesome, and I learned a ton from him. I did my first completely unassisted takeoff and landing as well…so that felt pretty good. I am a good amount behind (about one flight) from where I need to do. This is due to my airsickness and I wasn’t able to execute a lot of the maneuvers or do some pattern work since I had gotten airsick by that point in the flight.

This place definitely makes you question what you want to continue to do in the Air Force. For some, they’ll leave because they just don’t enjoy it anymore (I don’t really enjoy it at this stage either, but that’s due to it being IFS…and flying a DA-20.) Though I did have fun on Friday…which was awesome. One of my friends (who is at Laughlin with me and was in my flight of 13 at ASBC) also left on Friday. His was more than just “this isn’t for me anymore.” With him it wasn’t about ability or not being able to fly, I mean he even has 60 hours in the DA-20 (the aircraft we fly here at IFS.) For him it’s just that he believes his happiness and life is meant to be doing something else in the Air Force. I hope he finds what he’s looking for, he’s a great guy.

With at least 10 people leaving from my IFS class of 80…it’s definitely a wake up call. Two of them were from my flight. I don’t blame or question any of their decisions…as I was wrestling with the same decision for most of Weds and Thursday. If I didn’t have a good flight on Friday, I don’t know what would have happened. I know my IP was going to make me fly a sortie with him before I decided anything. He knew what I was feeling and experiencing and his main objective on Friday was to make me comfortable in the aircraft so I stopped thinking about not being able to do it, as well as getting sick. Evidently it worked, and my self-esteem is renewed for the most part.

When it comes to academics or studying, I can do just fine…I’m not struggling or having trouble with that portion of it at all. What was happening was I wasn’t learning from my previous IP, and after I got sick then my body was just not wanting to have any part of it. I’m the only one of the 29 in my flight that were having airsickness problems. That’s an added huge obstacle for me to overcome. I talked to a couple people from the class ahead and they gave me some examples of people getting sick 5+ rides and still being able to pull through. It just meant I was going to have to chairfly (sitting in a mock up cockpit of the DA-20) and run through all the motions of the flight like radio calls, maneuvers, and navigation. Most of this stuff you have to commit to memory as  you just don’t have time to hesitate and think. The biggest hurdle is just getting the whole procedure of it all down…because each flight is very similar, it’s just knowing what to do and when to do it. “Being ahead of the airplane.” I learned a ton with my new IP so I’m pretty hopeful of what is to come. Regardless I’m going to stick it out and give it my all. I know I can do it now.

A huge help has just been the other guys here with me at IFS. If you get a little down or negative they’ll pick you back up and make sure you head is back in the game. Even the guy that left made sure I had a clear head about it all. One guy (Matt) has been chairflying with me…he’s got quite a bit more experience with it all than I do, so he’s been a huge help. He also went with me to Pikes Peak along with another group of guys.

Friday and Saturday definitely helped me to get my head back in the game and refocus on the next two weeks (hopefully I’m done before that.) Friday we had a class party for the three flights of people here at IFS. Beer, food, and friends…lol. I love the pilot type environment….gotta have beer. Then on Saturday I drove up to Pikes Peak with Matt. Got to finally use the lancer driving up a mountain…It was definitely an awesome time. I recommend anyone coming to IFS to go up to Pikes Peak on some weekend. And since it is “Pikes” peak….I definitely made it applicable to my fraternity (pike.) I even found a hoddie that had our fraternity colors.


(You can see my facebook album for more pictures)

Once the week was over though, I’m definitely glad I’m here and continuing on. I know this is probably about as much “suck” as there will be, and UPT also wont be fun, but it’s the people who make it a fun experience. Without these guys, It would be hell here.

Thanks for reading, and who knows, maybe next time I update I’ll have soloed!

Categories: IFS, The Journey, This and That

Enroute to Pueblo

3 August 2010 1 comment

Since my last entry, I did another week of casual status, and drove to IFS (Introductory Flight Screening) at Pueblo, Colorado. I’ll break down each, starting with last week of casual status.

Casual status last week (for the most part) was much like the previous weeks. Did gate guard shifts (I mainly worked the morning shifts this time) and finished up my checklists for in-processing. It was nice to finally turn those things in. I also got issued all my flight stuff (flight suits/helmet bag/gloves/ and even air force aviators….) I guess each base is different on the “extra” stuff as we got the aviators, and others got watches.

I also took my Physical Fitness Test last Monday. Even though I do another one here, tomorrow…The one last Monday will hold me over until I start phase 1. I scored a 90 which means I should only take it once a year, but since I’m a pilot trainee…we take it during every phase of training. The one I have to do tomorrow morning is going to be bad…This altitude is going to be killer.

There were a couple awesome things that happened last week. I finally moved into my dorm (woohoo for my own place again!) I got the key to my room Tuesday, and moved all my stuff in on Wednesday right after my gate guard shift. I had the cable guy there hooking up my cable/internet within a matter of hours. The internet isn’t the best, but it’s a hell of a lot better than what I’ve had  the past couple months. (The internet here at IFS is actually pretty good, just a side note.)  I don’t even have a TV yet, as I haven’t had the money for one, but that’s the “awesome thing to happen last week, number 2!” I got all my back pay from ASBC, my TDY and my PCS money (PCS = Permanent change of station.) The drive to Maxwell is TDY while the drive from Maxwell to your base is considered a PCS (if you’re enroute.) All of this combined was a lot of money. Most of that money has been money I’ve paid out for gas/lodging and food.

On Saturday I left Laughlin and headed to Lubbock, Texas for my first stop along the way to Pueblo. This six hour leg was pretty long, there wasn’t a whole lot to see (at first there kind of was as the road I was on required constant turns and was fun to drive/maneuver.) Once I made it to Lubbock I went to my friend Kelsey’s apartment. She’s a friend from my flight at field training and I hadn’t seen her since then. It was also nice to meet her fiancé, Jacob, who is also a WoW player (Kelsey is also.) I definitely appreciated them allowing me to stay with them/ hang out, it was fun.

The next day I continued my trip to Walsenburg, Colorado. The first part of this drive was pretty boring, and flat. New Mexico brought about the start of the Sangre De Cristo mountains. By the time I was in Colorado I was right in the heart of them. Once I made it to Walsenburg I made a side journey over to La Veta to see the Twin Spanish Peaks. Which is the picture below.

After that I took a side road over to Gardner, Colorado and drove by some familiar spots. I made my way over to the start of the Upper Huerfano area and snapped a couple pictures. The Upper Huerfano area is where I’ve actually hiked/camped back in high school for three summers in a row. You can see all that info on my facebook though. And the people that actually want to know all about that are probably my facebook friend. The below image is a shot is along the road leading back into that area more. I wasn’t going to risk going further with my car though.


The last image is just a map I found of the area. You can pretty see where everything is laid out that I discussed. That V area of the map with Mt Blanca making the base of the V is where I used to go/took the last picture from.

My next post I’ll detail the first week of IFS, as I’ve only in-processed today. So until next time!

Categories: IFS, The Journey

Week 6 and Graduation

Week Six was last week, the final week of my time at ASBC.

Week Six is mainly Blue Thunder all over again (at a different location called “Vigilant Warrior”) but this time around you’re mainly applying what you’ve learned over the past several weeks. Some ASBC classes do Blue  Thunder on week 1 and Vigilant Warrior (VW) on Week 6, and other classes do Blue Thunder on Week five and VW on week six. I’m not sure which I’d prefer really.

Day 1 VW: We left at about 0800 in the morning on that Monday. The buses took us somewhere near Wetumpka I believe, as the route looked familiar since it was the same one we took to go kayaking. The first thing we did was find our tents/unpack a little/ and get everything set up. We then did the Assault Course (oh joy…) It’s like Field Training, but a longer distance and you do them together as a flight. With almost black flag conditions, this was absolute hell. The plus side is we didn’t have to wear our battle rattle, but it was still way too hot. About halfway through I was getting really dizzy and lightheaded due to not having eaten that much the prior 24 hours. Definitely wasn’t a good idea, but what can you do when you just don’t feel like eating. Later on we rested and recovered from the Assault course (definitely needed it) and we did the IED lane. This was kind of spooky shit as we saw all the different IED’s in a close up fashion and how they all worked. We then walked the “lane” where IED’s were placed along it so we could see the real life application of what we were up against. This was definitely a learning experience.

Day 2: Day 2 we spent out in the field doing Base Defense and Land Navigation. My chalk of 6 flights started off with the Base Defense portion. I was a radio man in one of the 8 Defensive Fighting Positions (DFPs) and went to assist my DFP in building our fortification. We started moving sandbags and there were a couple of huge spiders, and a fricken 4 foot long snake. This definitely made me NOT want to get inside this bunker like structure knowing those things were just in there. Oh what fun! I really cant stand spiders at all. Needless to say I dealt with it, and we manned the DFP for 3 hours while we were occasionally attacked (with paintballs) It was a hot three hours, and we didn’t kill anyone but we also weren’t killed either.

Land navigation was a bit interesting. In the morning the chalk that did land navigation had to do land nav as well as fight enemy opposition along the way. Due to the black flag conditions (black flag=fricken hottttt) we didn’t have any of our paintball gear on or battle rattle…so that made it a little cooler. Navigating through the thick woods of Alabama wasn’t exactly a vacation though, but we did it.

Day 3: This was mainly site cleanup and our “capstone.” I had a lot of fun for the capstone event actually. The two squadrons square off against each other for the capstone in which the 12 flights from the gryphons and the 12 flights from the blackhawks each man a base and defend it. My flight’s job for the capstone was to be one of the three mission teams. Occasionally a mission would come down from our headquarters saying we needed to go do this or that. If we completed the mission we’d get points, and whichever squadron (Gryphons or Blackhawks) had the most at the end won. Our first mission was to scout the Blackhawk base and engage a few defenses to test their strength. I was pointman, and once we eventually made our way to their base we decided that myself and another guy would pop off a couple shots to engage them and thus test their defenses. This didn’t work out too well in my favor as they were deploying a mission team (12-14 people) with the same exact mission we had. I was right next to the road in pretty decent concealment and the guy with me stepped on a branch and snapped it. All 12-14 of them wheeled around and faced the TWO of us. I started laying down the paint and took the first two closest to me down, and turned to engage the rest when I got hit by about 8 paintballs. Three broke, one in the face, and one in each arm. The other guy ran for it back to our flight. After still being fired upon for a good minute they finally figured our I was indeed dead when a member of their mission team came and used me as cover. I got up and went to the road to walk back. When I did I turned around and faced their ECP to get some intel and there sits about 50 people with paintball guns…all pointed at me. THAT was fun.

After sitting in the medical tent for 10 minutes in the Air Conditioning…I was “respawned” back to my flight. About 45 minutes left in the capstone we went with the other two mission teams to all out engage the enemy base. We took the middle area and started making our way. My flight decided to take a left route while I was at point in the middle and one of our guys was still far right. I decided to stick with him and make sure he wasn’t separated, and at the same time secure the flights right most flank. We ran into three separate patrols of three people each (just “wild weasel” and I.) I’d hide behind some good cover and be pretty well concealed while he would engage and draw their attention/fire. They’d start to move up to engage and I’d line them up and take them all down. We did this for awhile until we started to run into a rather large force of blackhawks coming our way, and we also linked up with the surviving portion of our flight. At this time exercise was over =(. We found out that we won (the Gryphons) because we were able to retrieve the “black box” which was the main objective of the day.

The rest of the day we just cleaned up the base and waited on the buses to go back to Maxwell.

Graduation Day!: We had our last squadron commander’s call, which we found out that we were last out of all the flights for the assault course. The SQ/CC said these are the “final results” so everyone was giving us shit because it seemed like we were the last flight overall in the gryphon’s…Which we found out later wasn’t so, that was only for the assault course. We also did our final feedback with our flight commanders. My Flight Commander for the most part confirmed what I already knew about my leadership style/who I am in settings like these. I come out of the gate reserved and a little “shy/quiet” but I build up relationships with the people around me and gradually assert myself over time when the opportunity arises. The weakness in this is in settings like ASBC or field training, where we are all working together but competing at the same time…Is I don’t like to step on other people’s toes, and instead want to help them to succeed. If the rest of the flight are all speaking up and out-loud constantly, I’m not going to add another voice to that mess. I wait until my input is needed, or the input I have is needed. I’m not saying people that speak up all the time are bad, in no way at all. (JB I’m talking about you, you don’t talk too much, I promise…you’ll be a damn good officer.) Those people do what I can’t and that’s get the ball rolling early on, but to succeed you also need me there to make sure you have all the help you can get. It’s a nice mix I think, because too many of either kind will just pose problems. I also need the out-loud leaders to help me become more assertive, so we help each other. My flight commander said “I’m not going to tell you to speak up more, or be more forward, because that’s not who you are…you just need to put yourself in a role where you’ll have to be in that leadership position earlier that way everyone can see what you can do.” The problem at Field Training was I really didn’t find that niche or that role I could really hit a home run with until the very end…While other people, like JB, stood up early and often and showed that they knew what they were doing and we could follow them. I like to wait…wait for the chaos to start to develop in a given instance, when it’s most stressful…kick it in the balls and show it who’s boss. I did it at Field Training, I did it at ASBC. Both times I stepped up and really did well were during two exercises that were pretty chaotic. So moving forward into my career, I need to find that chaos earlier and get out of my comfort zone to make sure I’m seen as the leader earlier on. So it was useful feedback, and it’s nice knowing I have what it takes to be a good leader. Not really sure why I always want the chaotic stressful situations though…

After feedback we had graduation. Graduation was about an hour long with a couple of the senior leadership of the school talking to us and giving us some nuggets of wisdom to take away from it all. After that we went to flight room, got our diplomas…said our farewells. I made a lot of friends here at ASBC, and I think a couple will carry on. I certainly hope so.

It was a bummer to  finish and the flight be no more, but I was ready to move onto my next step. (and getting out of Maxwell wasn’t so bad…but Laughlin it just a hell of a lot smaller and going to be just as hot.)

Categories: ASBC, Training Tags: ,

Week 5 (Combined Ops)

I apologize for this being a couple days late (I seem to always get wrapped up in something.) I’ll definitely have to  get better about writing in this blog in the future. But anyways, here is week five and my favorite week here at ASBC.

Week 5 is pretty different when it comes to the other weeks at ASBC. We do a lot of the same stuff in a sense (briefings, Icarus, etc) but our flights are different. (I don’t think I’ve ever explained what a “flight” in the Air Force is, but think of it as a platoon like the army.) My flight (Gryphon Flight 810) has 13 people, all of which are 2d Lts (some have 1st Lts and even a couple Captains.) During Combined Ops we are combined with the SNCO Academy (Senior Non-Commissioned Officer) Academy. This Academy is where Master Sgts/Senior Master Sgt go for training to be a SNCO. These are people that have generally been in 16 years or more, as most are about to sew on Senior Master Sgt. These people are the backbone of the Air Force and are really your go to leadership in the ranks. As a fresh 2d Lt I am a higher rank, but that doesn’t mean that these individuals will respect me, or that I’ll even make the best decision (because as a fresh LT you probably wont.) This combined ops week is to get us in a flight with 6 or 7 senior NCOs and for us (the LTs) to interact with them like we would our normal flight.

Since my step-father was a Technical Sgt in the Air Force I definitely had a perspective of what the enlisted side was like before I ever became an officer. I went into this already knowing that these individuals, and people like them with that rank, deserve respect and mainly for you to go to them for advice on what to do. A SNCO can really make or break your first assignment. You can act like you know everything as a LT and try to boss people around, or you can go to this senior enlisted leader and rely on them for advice and input on what is the best route. They have given a large portion of their lives to the Air Force, and they really do bleed blue. They care about the Air Force more than you can probably understand, so they are here to help you. Some LTs don’t get this concept, but it’s changed more as time goes on (especially if we get training like this during combined ops.) This give us a chance to interact with the SNCO’s and see how they “tick” as well as giving them a chance to see how we “tick.”

I really have to say that I loved this portion of ASBC. My combined flight was awesome, and one of the SNCO’s was actually from the Terre Haute, IN guard unit (how crazy is that considering I’m FROM there.) The Terre Haute guard unit is what I grew up around and is what initially got me into wanting to join the Air Force (of course with the help of my step-dad Martin.) It gave me a little more perspective also, because this woman was 52 (i’m 22.) She joined the Guard well before I was even born, and here I am a higher rank than her. She gave me a coffee mug from the Guard Base on the last day, which really meant a lot to me…It’s the first thing I’ve received as a gift, and it means even more to me considering it’s from the place that got me started in this great Air Force.

The other five SNCO’s were also fantastic, I really have to say that I’m impressed with their professionalism and their performance during this time. Here we are 22/23 years old being called “Sir” by people we grew up calling Sir/Ma’am. Again, it’s surreal.  One of them made me smile on the last day when he gave us all a salute because he enjoyed his time with us so much. Another SNCO was a really big PC gamer, so he and I hit it off.

During Combined Ops we did some classroom stuff, but what I enjoyed most was the perspective exchange and the values discussion. During the perspective exchange the LT’s asked the SNCO’s questions and vice-versa, so we really got a chance to see what they thought about things. The “value exchange” section was probably the best as we were asked as a group questions like “Do you believe the military should allow Gay’s?” And we had to either Agree, Agree with Reservations, Disagree with Reservations, or Disagree and then put ourselves in the respective area in the room. It was always interesting to see the distribution for the questions and most of them were kind of shocking. For instance, only LTs (people my age) were the ones against gay’s in the military…I thought that was crazy, I thought it would have fallen the other way. I also found it interesting how all of these people backed up their beliefs, while I always took the neutral route, because I never made any of these judgments on my personal belief alone. Maybe that’s my political science side, but I’ve never believed that what I may believe is always the only and best way. For instance just because I think something isn’t the way it should be doesn’t mean it should be changed based on one group’s beliefs or feelings. But that’s a blog within itself.

For those of you coming to ASBC, look forward to this section of the course…It was awesome. I wish that the entire course could have been six weeks of this…I really enjoyed it that much.

I just finished our “deployment” phase and the last three days of instruction…Graduation is tomorrow, so a new blog should be up around Monday or so (I’ll be driving this weekend to Del Rio, TX) I just hope the hurricane doesn’t interfere. I’m going to enjoy my little bit of time to travel and go for a little vacation though.

Until Next time! I’m now going to go out to dinner with my flight for the last time =(.

Categories: ASBC, The Journey

Week 4, Briefings, Icarus, and Wargaming

24 June 2010 1 comment

Well the title pretty much sums up week 4 (I’m not even kidding.)

Did our “doctrine briefings”…15 minute long briefing, and I did mine over Nuclear Operations. AFDD 2-17. It really wasn’t that bad and I plowed through the entire thing from Sunday at 4pm to Monday morning at 4am. So I suggest to anyone going to be here at ASBC…Start the briefing early, and don’t plan a weekend get away the weekend before it’s all do. We also had to do a 3 page “position paper.” It really wasn’t bad.

We had another combatives course (our final one.) We did two icarus operations and then on Friday had an Icarus tournament (we lost the first round, but still did well!) We also had our two Wargaming operations which is my “additional duty.” When you get to ASBC you get assigned an additional duty in your flight from Icarus Officer, PT officer, Wargaming, Team Leader, etc. I got to be one of the two wargaming officers. We did pretty well on both of them. Got second out of twelve flights on the first one, and not sure how well we did comparatively on the second one (though I felt it was a better performance than the first.) I was really proud/happy with my flight though.

As a flight (well 9 out of 13 of us) we went Kayaking on the Coosa River. It was really fun, but I was hoping for several more Rapids. Needless to say I really want to go whitewater kayaking and maybe even purchase one (though they are a little pricey) So we’ll see…If I do that I’d have to also put an ugly rack on my car for it…so that’s one downside.

It’s funny to have a new ASBC class here, because we’re no longer the “noobs.” It’s fun being able to pass long some of the stuff we’ve learned to them.

This week is Combined Operations where all of us get split into new flights containing ASBC students from both my class and the class that started last week, as well as Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (people that have been enlisted for 18+ years and are at the top ranks of the enlisted force.) This is definitely the best part of ASBC. But I’ll talk about that when I do the next post!

Thanks for reading, and comments are always welcome!

Categories: ASBC, Training