Saturday, July 26, 2014

Finding OTS PEP

If you're not following CMSgt Juan "The Fired Up Chief" Lewis on Facebook, you need to be.  I wasn't blessed to have been at BMT when he was part of the leadership team, but his legacy lives on in his retirement years as he visits trainees and inspires others with his infectious PEP.  Pride, Enthusiasm, and Passion (PEP) are what drive this leader, who is known to treat everyone with the respect they deserve as heroes.  My MTI mentor speaks of Chief Lewis fondly, and that is a nod of approval that I can back without questioning.  This Airman was Aiming High before the Air Force conceived that phrase for a future motto.  Enlisted or officer, everyone can learn from this leader and the impact that he has on others.

I happened to catch this graphic on his page today.  It's a Hero Card that he sends to Airmen in need of encouragement.  I love the accountability of being held to achieve my goals, not only by another person but by self-identifying a deadline.


[Source]

He also had this message today: "Quit worrying about failing and start believing in achieving.  If you change the way you think, you increase the goals you accomplish."


Today I thought about my own five goals, and I am sharing them with you as I build myself up in preparation for the task at hand.

I certify I will accomplish all five goals listed below before 10 October 2014:
  1. Make a difference in a wingman's journey.  Whether it be a non-prior in need of some guidance and motivation as they adapt to the military lifestyle or a prior needing a reminder of our goal, I hope to make a difference, even if just a small one, in the journey of a wingman on their way to commissioning.
  2. Commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.  This goes without saying.  As I told Aunie, I am not leaving my daughter to fail.
  3. Score a 90 or higher on my PT test.  Other than my postpartum PT test, I have a track record of scoring in the 90s that I intend to keep.
  4. Assume a leadership role in my flight.  In the second half of OTS, flight leaders are chosen that mimic the chain of command in the "real" Air Force (e.g. OT Colonel).  I would like to be placed in a leadership role where I can utilize my talents and skills.
  5. Achieve distinction of some sort while at OTS.  There are a number of awards at the end of OTS.  While it would be amazing to have one similar to mine from BMT, I will not set that as my goal without knowing what I'm getting myself into yet.  ;)
I might even throw out a bonus #6 - I would love to earn my marksmanship ribbon, and redeem myself from my BMT experience.  During OTS we shoot the M9 pistol, so we'll see if I fare better on that weapon.

What about you?  What goals are you setting for yourself?  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Family Separation Prep

As I've mentioned before in the past, OTS is going to be the first time I've ever been away from my daughter.  The longest I've been away from her is the length of a work day - never overnight, never for a "getaway weekend," never ever.  As a nursing mom, you realize that it's easier just to be with your child, versus being away and pumping/storing/transporting milk, at least that's what I've realized.  My DH feels likewise, and isn't in a rush to run off with me and leave her behind (at least, if Uncle Sam isn't requiring him to do so).

Twenty-eight days notice for OTS meant that we were going to have to transition her to her own bed at night (originally we thought my husband was going to be TDY during this time period as well), and wean her from nursing so that I wouldn't undergo any of the numerous physical ailments that go along with weaning cold turkey.  I plan to write more on this subject later, most likely after my return so I can document how it went when I was there and how we acclimated to our new normal upon my return.

Let's put the cliched statement out there first - "This will be harder on me than it is on her."  That's what they keep telling me, and I hope that it's true, for her sake.  In the meantime, we've tried to do some fun things to prepare ourselves for this absence.  Keep in mind that my daughter is only 15 months old, so she doesn't understand too much about what's going on and we have limitations to what we can do.

We've ordered her a Daddy Doll, with stripes photoshopped out so that we don't have to change it too soon.  If you're going to be separated from your child for whatever reason, they're pretty amazing.  You take a high quality [read: not cell phone pic] of yourself and send it to them and they make a doll out of it.  They've branched out and do more than just military members these days, so there's something for everyone.  No, I wasn't paid to rave about them, I paid for this awesome likeness of myself out of my hard earned money.  :)

I also ordered the Sesame Street "Talk, Listen, Connect" DVDs.  She doesn't watch TV, but I made an exception for this series, which is designed to introduce family separation and feelings to young children.  We attempted to watch it and it went as expected - she lost interest after a couple minutes and wandered away to play.  I am totally fine with that.  It's a very cute series, available in English and Spanish, and available for free from Military One Source.  Both websites have a ton of (free!) resources to assist military families and military kids.  

Military One Source has even more great freebies, including a number of board books for ages one through three that have been developed by licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) through the organization Zero To Three.  All of their books are winners in our household, and include information in the back for parents on how to broach topics like separation and reunification with children, as well as typical reactions of children to these sorts of emotions.  Most of their books include slots for photos, which DD really loves.  Just try not to choke up while you read "Over There" to your child, especially the line, "My Mommy/Daddy is away and I miss her/him, but she's/he's always here in my heart."  Seriously.  DD devours books and loves being read to, so we have gone through these books time and time again.

Ultimately, I am thankful that unlike at BMT, I will have access to a personal computer and significantly fewer restrictions on use of my personal cell phone so that I can call home and FaceTime whenever possible.  I don't know the exact policies just yet, so I don't want to speak before I have firsthand experience, but I am relived to know that this is an option for me.  I tip my hat to those parents that go through BMT, separated by their children with minimal opportunities to communicate with them.  In the meantime, we are trying to make the most of our summer and our remaining days together.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

OTS Packing Prep

Packing for OTS makes me long for the carefree days of BMT preparation.  No, seriously, take me back to the days of a small backpack/duffle bag with as little as possible.  Get your pocketbook out if you're heading to OTS - you're going to be dropping a lot of cash.  That's the bottom line.  Hopefully you've got some money squirreled away.


There is a main webpage for OTS with all of the "information" you need.  It has its pitfalls though, and there is not a single, consolidated list of items you need to bring, paperwork or otherwise.  There are several subpages that have their own items mentioned in one-liners here and there, so you have to comb through everything to get the full picture, as well as talk to other former Officer Trainees (OTs) to get the rest of the story.

I am amused by the fact that the official website straight up says, in a nutshell, "Bring $2000 with you.  If you don't have it, prepare to apply for a Military Star [Credit] Card on the first day."  Ouch!  I guess you really do have to spend money to make money...

There is a main AAFES shopping list, and a pre-positioned list of items in your room upon arrival.  I imagine those items to be similar to my BMT experience, in which you're charged for them when you checkout at the mini-mall at OTS [read: not free].

My first recommendation is to keep and/or make copies of the receipts from all of your purchases.  Unlike BMT, nothing is going to be issued to you as an officer, and everything comes out of your own pocket.  Sure, you get a clothing allowance, but when is that going to come through?  Not in time for this, let me tell you.  I maintain an envelope with all of my receipts for tax purposes later, since these are all work-related expenses.

Things I've Purchased So Far:

  • Service Coat - Officer coats have epaulets.  Snagged the US emblems too.
  • Flight Cap - Ooh, fancy braiding!  Already took a picture of my kid wearing it.  ;)  
  • Blues shirts - Two princess cut short sleeve and one princess cut long sleeve.
  • Blue Poly Pants - The BMT blues pants are the wool blend (bringing them), but I am also required to have two pairs of polyester pants, which aren't issued to you.
  • Bras, sports and otherwise - The woes of a mom with a new, post-baby body.
  • IPTUs - Four sets of shirts, shorts, and a new suit.  I upgraded from the "loud" original PTUs I got at BMT.  Don't forget crew socks!
  • Compression shorts - One of mine got lost/stolen at BMT, so I made sure I had a pair for each set of PT gear.
  • Shower shoes - I chucked mine after BMT. 
  • Running shoes - I prefer to be properly fitted at a running store.  My existing ones aren't horrible, but probably not fit for inspection.  I was able to get a pair that will meet my needs given the terrain I'll be running on.
  • RABUs - The lightweight ABUs seemed like a must for Alabama heat.  I got two pairs, and had name tapes and functional badges sewn on.  Thrown in a new RABU hat, a new belt (mine had paint wear on the buckle), and six new sand t-shirts (cotton/poly blend).  Oh, and don't forget three more pairs of my preferred sage green sock.
  • Low Quarters (Corframs) - I upgraded after hearing that everyone has the "shiny ones" down there, and for the fact that it saves me the trouble of shining them.  We wear blues a significant amount of time down there.  I snagged new black socks as well.
  • Ribbon Racks - I am bringing two regular ribbon racks, a functional badge, and a rack of mini medals and the smaller functional badge.  We are in mess dress during graduation week for Dining Out, and have to have our racks prepared in advance.
  • Toiletries, Cleaning Products, Hair Care Items - Tons upon tons.  All new products for styling my hair, travel and full sized toiletry items, cleaning products to maintain my dorm room, energy chews and B12 supplements [I still can't believe you can self-medicate], the list goes on...
Things To Purchase:
  • Printer - Not super excited about this one, but Amazon has some cheaper printers that do only that.  Must grab ink to go with it.
  • Lightweight Blues Jacket - Planning to pick this up down there.  Seems like the OTs wear the ones without the embroidery and mine has that and the stripes showing.


So, how do you do this on the cheap?  If you have a sufficient amount of time prior to leaving, you can scour local resale pages on Facebook or Craigslist in search of officers unloading their old uniforms.  You can make due with your current uniforms if the markings left by your stripes aren't readily apparent.  You can rummage through your house in search of toiletries and sundries you already own.  

Does this seem overwhelming?  Well, you could always just show up with the bare minimum and purchase everything there.  I chose not to do that, because I don't want my choices to be limited down there [e.g. only one brand of shoe] and I wanted to have as much time as possible to try items on and make decisions for myself, versus being pushed through a line.  I also wanted the option to spread out my purchases over the course of a few weeks, versus getting that sticker shock all at once.

I plan to update with another post after OTS of what was truly needed and what wasn't, as well as my recommendations for future OTs.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Say what?! An OTS school date!

Prior to our normal July UTA, I had a few AT days scheduled, so I could get them done for the fiscal year.  It made for a long week, Monday through Sunday, that I was working, or the longest week I've had in a while.  When Wednesday rolled around, I attended a meeting at the wing level that involved representatives from each squadron, including some supervisors from the Military Personnel Section (MPS; the folks who process the DACP program).

I was sitting there with a wingman, taking everything in and waiting for the meeting to start, when someone asked me, "so, did you get the letter?"

Um, come again?

Seems my selection letter had just come in the day or so before and they had it in their email.  At first I wasn't sure if this was some sort of horrible joke, as I was told my school date was next month.  I was familiar enough with the 2015 school dates and I knew that the next date was August 6th.  A mere twenty-eight days away.

The deliverer of this news wasn't expecting the reaction they got.  "Flabbergasted" is a good way to describe my initial feelings towards this news.  Am I excited?  Yes.  But it is a bittersweet, loaded bunch of emotions that come with it.  Remember that I've been going through this process since the fall of 2012.  To say it's been dragging is an understatement.  So, to sign the final papers on the 23rd of June and see a selection letter dated the 1st of July was beyond anything I ever expected.  That meant I had twenty-eight days.  Twenty-eight days to prepare my family for my departure, to get my daughter to sleep in the big girl bed, and to wean her.  DH is only home temporarily, before some additional duty out of state.  That means our family care plan is in full effect and DD is being watched by FIL.  I have no doubt that she'll be way taken care of, but I also want to get a support network together for him, as that's a big nine week undertaking for anyone.  Never mind the fact that I'm sure my school administrators are thrilled to hear that I won't be starting the school year with them.  The thought of writing lesson plans right now prior to leaving seems daunting, and low on my priority list in comparison to my family, military, and personal obligations.

That's where I'm at, readers.  I have twenty-two days remaining.  So many things to share with you already, but I definitely feel like I hit the rewind button back to 2011 and I'm preparing to go to BMT all over again, except with a lot more luggage and money out of pocket prior to leaving.  Forgive me if I can't share right away, but you can expect lots of stories when I return!  Eyes on the prize, the 10th of October and those gold bars.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Zuus 4th of July Playlist

Hello friends!  I should be baking a cherry pie right now [no, really, the crust is sitting out, waiting for me], but instead I had to pop online to share with you a cool musical collaboration I recently got to participate in.

I am a big fan of websites that compile a playlist for you, based upon certain interests - Songza, Spotify, etc.  They're a great way for me to listen to a certain type of music at work in the morning, while still keeping it interesting and unpredictable.  I hadn't heard of Zuus before they contacted me, but they do essentially the same thing, but with videos.  Awesome!  If you pop onto YouTube to watch music videos, you'll love this site.

They asked if I wanted to participate in a 4th of July playlist with a bunch of other military mom bloggers, and asked for a couple of my favorites.  The playlist is predominantly country in genre, which is the first genre that jumps to my mind when I'm looking for patriotic songs.  Fire this up for your 4th of July celebration and enjoy!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

New Beginnings

This past week was graduation week at the Air Force Academy.  Living in the area, we have the pleasure of witnessing the preparation for the big day, including the practice sessions by the Thunderbirds (back this year after budget cuts last year).  My father is a gifted photographer, and was able to capture some spectacular shots of their performance on graduation day.  These sights are a little reminder of one of the many reasons I'm proud to be an Airman.  


[Credit: J. Boone Pooler Photography]

[Credit: J. Boone Pooler Photography]

[Credit: J. Boone Pooler Photography]

On another personal note, three years ago today I left for BMT.  It does and doesn't seem like it's been all that long.  When I think about the changes that have occurred at BMT in these three years, it feels like it's been forever.  I've discussed with friends before that I know my blog has a finite nature due to the constantly evolving beast that is BMT, but my hope is that it continues to motivate and inspire, even in my absences.  I promise, I'm not holding out on you - just enjoying my summer days with my young family, soaking up all the time that I can!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Happy Milspouse Appreciation Day!

Disclosure: I was gifted a flag by Gettysburg Flag Works, and made the personal decision to share my experience.  All opinions presented within this post are my own.

The Friday before Mother's Day is recognized as Military Spouse Appreciation Day.  I consider myself fortunate to have been a milspouse before I joined myself.  I went to BMT knowing the purpose and value behind my sacrifice, and with the experience of separation from my husband.  I cringe when I see fellow service members putting down military spouses, or even worse yet, military spouses picking on each other.  I believe in a shared sense of pride, in our country and in our duty, and I believe in the power of community.


Mike from Gettysburg Flag Works recently reached out to me and shared their dedication to military members and their families.  In honor of Memorial Day and a token of their gratitude, they offered me a flag from their extensive catalog.  A full-sized flag pole was a selling point of my home, and I was proud to be able to add a POW/MIA flag from Gettysburg Flag Works to it.  The flag is a bold, double sided all weather nylon.  Durability is essential out here, where our flags are flown around the clock (appropriately illuminated) and exposed to the gamut of weather conditions.  

With the Run For The Wall Central Route coming through our small town next weekend, it's a time for humble reflection on those who have sacrificed for our country.  I am thankful the small sacrifices my own family has made, and for the opportunity to honor those of others.

Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day to my husband and my fellow milspouses!  To those families who have made the ultimate sacrifice, you have my utmost respect and deepest condolences.