Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have a Great Air Force Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of my readers that celebrate the holiday!  I spent Christmas Eve doing one of the best volunteer gigs out there - NORAD Tracks Santa!  Last year was the first year I participated and it's hard not to love being a Santa tracker.  I'm so fortunate to live in this area where participating is a reality for me.  Sign-ups go really quickly, so I've been stalking volunteer notices via my military email for a while now, as well as the Peterson AFB Airman & Family Readiness Center Facebook page.  As soon as I spotted them, I was signing up.
I purposely chose an earlier time slot this year (0600 - 0800 MST), in hopes of getting some phone calls from more distant countries.  It did help some, and I got calls from South Africa, Germany, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and a few from Canada (including a radio station in Ontario).  Once the stateside children started calling in, I had a slew of calls from Pennsylvania.  Those kids were on it!  I publicize my direct line on my personal FB page, as well as the AHE page this year, as I love getting calls from friends' children.  I make a great effort to be a good tracker too, and apparently I do a good job.  I listened in on a call that a friend's children made later and the tracker had a flat personality.  This just doesn't do in my world!
Santa Trackers are prepared to answer a number of questions, and I got some fun ones this year!  We have a general script for frequently asked questions, but we're pretty much given free reign on the oddball ones.

  • Who does Santa like better, One Direction or Justin Bieber?  [I answered One Direction - good thing the caller was a bigger One Direction fan.]
  • What if the Tooth Fairy bumps into Santa? - Girl with a wiggly tooth.  [I told her she'd have twice the magic that night if she lost her tooth!]
  • Why does Santa use a sleigh and not a car?  [Clearly, because a car would sink crossing the ocean, although I didn't word it so morbidly.]
  • Does Santa use the sleigh other times of the year?  [Of course, even Santa needs a vacation!]
  • Does Santa want chocolate milk or white milk?  [Let's mix it up with the chocolate milk.] 

I hope my readers with younger children called in yesterday!  NORAD Tracks Santa is a great way to get your kids into bed at a decent hour on Christmas Eve!  I stressed the fact that if you weren't in bed by the time Santa came (he arrives between nine and midnight in your appropriate time zone), he doesn't stop by.  Hopefully I helped some parents out by striking their children with fear of a gift-less holiday.  ;)

Happy holidays to you all!   

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Maternity Uniforms

Ah, maternity uniforms!  You'll most likely have a love/hate relationship with them, for various reasons I'll share below.  At this point in my pregnancy, I'm twenty-two weeks along.  I've been wearing a mix of maternity and normal uniform pieces, so I'll share what I've learned so far.

If you're a Reservist (and probably Guard too), you're in luck!  You'll be issued maternity uniforms, or at least the basics to get you by.  As soon as you learn that you're pregnant, it's best to see the clothing monitor in your orderly room, also known as the Commander's Support Staff (CSS) office.  When I learned of my pregnancy, I found out that budget constraints were making for a long wait time.  Better to put in your request before you actually need them and can't wear your normal uniforms anymore.

The stretchy panel at 22 weeks.
If you're Active Duty, your doctor will give you a note that you'll take to finance.  Your finance office will then give you an additional clothing allowance to purchase your own maternity uniforms.  According to Mrs. H, my lovely AD resource, this happens for each pregnancy and is not a one-shot deal!  Unfortunately, quantities are limited at the local Clothing Sales stores on base, so your best bet is ordering them through AAFES.  It's not a really helpful process when there's no way to try them on prior to ordering.  While the sizing for ABUs is similar to non-maternity uniforms, the jumper, blues blouse, and semi-formal/formal blouses are only sold as XS through XL sizes.  My Clothing Sales store tends to have these in stock, so try them on if you can.  

If cost is an issue for you, try the Airman's Attic at your base or try asking around your squadron.  Perhaps there's a woman who was recently pregnant in your squadron that might have some to loan/give you.  Ask around, you never know what you'll find!  I've found that the pregnant Airmen (or Airmen that have been pregnant while serving in the past) tend to bond and look out for one another.  I've enjoyed this new camaraderie with other moms.

Lastly, check out your local craigslist or similar websites.  I found a number of uniforms for sale when I first buzzed around.

Non-Maternity Uniforms
If you're putting off buying or wearing maternity uniforms as long as you can, there's a few things you can do.  I found that the pants were the biggest/earliest issue in my pregnancy, because the button fly was unforgiving.  Plus, having received my pants during BMT, they were fitted to a once smaller waist.  The elastic in the waistband is no help either.  Many pregnant Airmen use the rubber band trick, which you can see in this lovely pictorial.  I never resorted to this, but I did go around with a couple buttons undone and a loosely worn belt on top of it.  

While the policies and enforcement will vary from command to command, I've seen a number of pregnant Airmen getting away with strategies that might work for you.  In one particular case, an Airman was given permission to wear PT gear in the office, because of difficulties with morning sickness and having outgrown her ABUs (while waiting for maternity ABUs to arrive).  Another Airman still wears the regular ABU trousers well into her second trimester, but doesn't button any of the buttons and folds the front inside on the diagonal.  With the ABU blouse covering the front, you wouldn't know the difference.  Again, feel it out in your squadron and ask other moms.

AFI 36-2903
As always, AFI 36-2903 is your bible for guidance on the wear of maternity uniforms, unless your commander has given you permission to do otherwise.  **There is no rule or regulation as to how soon you can wear maternity uniforms.**  If you need them, you need them.  The AFI does specify (Paragraph 1.2.5.) that maternity uniforms can be worn for up to six months after delivery, so don't feel stressed out that you'll need to fit back into your normal uniforms right away, or that you'll have to purchase larger, non-maternity uniforms.

Who doesn't love the maternity jumper?!
If you should have to wear an infrequently worn uniform, I'd highly recommend checking out the AFI well in advance of your event.  I learned late in the game that service dress required me to wear a long-sleeved blue shirt, which I didn't own (a maternity one).  Thankfully I was able to wear a non-maternity one and it fit fine.  Plus, under the jumper you couldn't tell if I left part of it unbuttoned (which I didn't need to).  Service dress also required the satin tie-tab, which I've only ever worn with semi-formal dress when not pregnant.  Semi-formal dress requires the white long-sleeved blouse, pretty standard, but it requires that you have chevrons on that shirt, which is atypical of non-maternity uniforms.  Do your research so you're not having to scramble at the last minute!  Don't forget those maternity pantyhose! 

What I'm Wearing
Currently, I'm wearing the maternity ABU trousers and my regular ABU top.  All of my other items are non-maternity, including outer garments, cold weather gear, and sand t-shirts.  I've had to wear the jumper for my Deserving Airman Commissioning Board, when service dress was required.  I haven't had to wear blues, since I'm not typically there on Blues Monday.  Plus, now that the Space Command has put an end to Blues Monday, I'll probably rarely wear them.

Like a little bell!  Avoiding this bad boy for now.
I was issued one set of maternity ABUs, a short-sleeved maternity blues blouse, a long-sleeved semi-formal white blouse, maternity blues trousers, and the jumper.  If my ABUs become unserviceable, I have to swap them out or purchase my own.  When I ordered my sizes, I went down one size from my normal ABUs (which were issued at BMT), since I'd heard they ran large.  This probably wasn't the best advice.  I can see myself having to get another pair of maternity ABU pants eventually, as I felt like I was stretching the elastic waist to the max when I was first trying them on.  The ABU top is very much babydoll shaped at this point, so I haven't worn it yet.  I would look downright ridiculous with that flared top right now, so I'm holding off until I absolutely can't fit into my normal ABU tops (which are huge) anymore.  My normal ABU top covers the elastic panel in my pants, so it's a non-issue.

Maternity cold weather gear is non-existent.  If I was Active Duty in a cold location, I'd be in search of maternity thermals in off-white to wear under my uniforms.  I have my issued thermals that I just fold down in the meantime, but I don't know how much longer they'll fit.  Fortunately, most of the outer garments are so large, they'll grow with me.  I'm still blousing my pants and wearing my boots, which I intend to do for as long as possible.  I can see this being an issue as my stomach gets larger.  Interestingly enough, the maternity ABU pants aren't hemmed at the bottom (despite being available in short, regular, and long lengths), so keep this in mind if you decide to start wearing athletic shoes with your uniforms at some point. 

A Love/Hate Relationship
Many women have a love/hate relationship with the maternity uniforms.  Ask around and most moms will tell you that these must have been designed by a man, due to the lack of stylishness and functionality.  You can see in my pictures that most of these pieces are pretty unattractive and are meant to function, rather than flatter.  The elastic in the maternity ABU pants can be really bothersome.  The suggestion was made to me to take the elastic out and replace it with a drawstring cord of some type, so it's not as uncomfortable.  The maternity jumper is something no one looks attractive in, but at least it has hidden side pockets!  It's a very "freeing" garment though, which is a plus, and there's nothing constricting you.  Be careful - the sizing runs big.  I can fit my entire family in the jumper, husband included.  You might consider having it taken in on the sides, which was recommended to me as well.  Just be careful that your maternity blouse underneath doesn't make it look lumpy if you have it tailored.  

My biggest complaint is the lack of functionality in the maternity ABUs.  It's as though the designer viewed pregnant women as completely useless, even in the office.  There are no hip pockets in the pants, only tiny pockets on the sides.  The blouse has no breast pockets, just two small patch pockets in front.  Neither garment has pen pockets.  Absolutely ridiculous, especially when you figure that most pregnant women are going to be kept inside an office, doing administrative tasks during this time.  As a Personnelist, this is really frustrating to me, and this is why I'm holding onto my non-maternity top for as long as possible.

I've found that a positive attitude and smile goes a long way when sporting these uniforms.  No one is going to look particularly attractive, so you may as well have fun with it!  I owned that maternity jumper and it was a great conversation starter in my squadron.  If I would've dwelled on the negative, I know that would've come across during my board, and potentially affected my confidence and outward appearance to the board members.

Stay comfortable, Airman mommy, and rock those maternity uniforms!  

Development & Training Flight

I am excited to announce that I'll be working with the newly formed Development & Training Flight (D&TF) for the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson AFB!

D&TF is a new(er) program that Reserve units are adopting, slowly but surely, across the country to help prepare those who are waiting to ship to BMT.  Active duty enlistees typically have their own monthly meetings and activities, although they may take on a different form.  When I enlisted, my monthly DEP (Delayed Entry Program) "meetings" consisted of a weigh-in and signing some papers.  There wasn't much in the way of networking and knowledge sharing.  D&TF changes all of that and better prepares people for BMT.  Meeting your fellow shippers, staying motivated, and getting paid [yes, you'll get paid for attending]?  What's not to like about that set-up!

D&TF is designed to meet during the normal UTA weekend for Reservists.  I took a peek at our agenda and it's going to be packed.  Think of it as my website and BMT Facebook groups in real time. Saturday starts early, at 0600, and I think lights out was around 2100, or something similar.  The time in between that was scheduled for PT, transit time, briefings, meals, and various other activities.  There will be classroom knowledge (the Airman's Creed, the Air Force Song), information from legal and finance, and endless opportunities to network with fellow trainees heading to BMT.  I spoke with the Airman who will be leading our D&TF today and I am so excited about what she has in store for our enlistees!

Anyone else participate in D&TF?  What has been helpful for you?  What hasn't worked out well?  I appreciate any and all input on your D&TF experience, as it'll help us mold ours! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wreaths Across America

Lieutenant General John F. Mulholland, Jr., USASOC
During this time of gift exchanging and holiday gatherings, Wreaths Across America (WAA) serves as a reminder to me that there are those out there whose holiday table will be missing a loved one.  Their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their loved one is not gone unnoticed by the folks at WAA, whose mission is to Remember, Honor, Teach.  In a nutshell, the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, has donated wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery to decorate the graves of veterans since 1992.  This mission has since been recognized by US Congress and has spread to cemeteries across the country.  Worcester ships donated wreaths across the country, to participating cemeteries that join together in a national moment of silence to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

I first learned of WAA back in 2008, when I was living in California and volunteering with the Patriot Guard.  I was honored to have been given a leadership role, as I partnered with Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona Del Mar to organize their ceremony.  After moving to North Carolina, I took on the same challenge and organized the 2009 ceremony at Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery in Spring Lake.

As you can imagine, the mission of this organization is near and dear to my heart, as the spouse of a service member and as a service member myself.  Circumstances have prevented me from participating since I've been here in Colorado, but I found a wonderful way to contribute this year.  WAA is offering a chance for you to Help Cover Arlington, and it's not too late!  There are tons of sponsorship options, including the Military Tribute Patriot Pair, which I jumped all over.  For $34.50, you can donate a wreath and receive one of your own, with an American flag and the service flag of your choice!  This isn't the thin variety of wreath you find at your local home improvement store or grocery store - this thing is plush.  Our new home is proudly sporting a gorgeous Air Force wreath, and I love that one will be decorating the grave of a veteran at Pacific View because of our purchase. 

Wreaths Across America Day is this Saturday, December 15th.  If you aren't able to donate, consider going out to a participating cemetery this weekend.  Remember.  Honor.  Teach.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

DACP Interview and Results

Future commissioned officer...or official tour guide?
December's UTA marked the convening of the Deserving Airman Commissioning Program Board (DACP).  Where I was told that being round and in a small tent I wouldn't fit in any of the newer uniforms.  [Editor's Note: This is what happens when you leave your draft unattended and your DH gets at it.]  My appointment was at Saturday at 0830, and required service dress, which is fodder for another post!  

Prior to the weekend, I looked into the AFI in preparation for laying out my blues.  Good thing I did, too!  Apparently maternity service dress requires the long-sleeved shirt (I wasn't issued a maternity one) and a satin tie tab (which I already owned, thanks to the Awards Banquet).  After some problem solving with a pregnant Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (SNCO), I realized I could wear my non-maternity long-sleeved shirt without issue.  I rocked the blueberry muu muu that morning, and had a number of fun conversations about my stylish attire.

I arrived at the board location the Air Force standard of ten to fifteen minutes early, only to find that aside from one other board member, no one else was there.  We took a seat at the conference table and relaxed for a bit while we waited.  Finally, the rest of the board members and the MPF personnel in charge of the board filtered in.  I gave them some privacy while they reviewed my package and I took the time to center myself.

The board consisted of five officers, all O-5 and above.  Our board chairman was the Vice Commander of the wing.  They try to get representation from each of the groups in the wing, so there was someone there from the Aeromedical Staging Squadron (ASTS), the Maintenance Group (MXG), the Misson Support Group (MSG), and the Operations Group (OG).  Fortunately, I was well-acquainted with all but one of the officers present, so I felt fairly comfortable and at-ease.  I can't stress enough how important it is to get involved in your wing through volunteer work, as well as seizing opportunities to further your training and networking.  Make sure that people know your name, and for positive reasons.  

When given the signal, I entered the room and gave a reporting statement to the board chairman.  I was a little shaky on that part, only due to the lengthiness of the wording.  Luckily I didn't break from my position of attention and I completed it without losing my military bearing.  After being given permission to sit, I continued to sit at the position of attention, just as I was taught at BMT.  Remember those BMT skills and procedures!

The board members each had a prepared question, during which they took notes on my responses.  There's no time limit given to respond, so I was able to think before speaking and give a thorough, thoughtful answer.  The questions were as I imagined for something like this.  I didn't write them down for you after my interview, but you can get the gist from the examples below.
  • Why are you ready for commissioning at this stage in your life/career?
  • What are your strengths as a leader?  What are your weaknesses?
  • What do you consider to be the greatest accomplishment in your life and how did you learn from that accomplishment?
  • Describe a time in your life when you faced a challenge as a leader and what that taught you.

After the board members made it through their five prepared questions, they were free to ask additional questions of me.  I was asked what my preferences were for career fields as an officer.  Be cautious about how you answer this.  The question was originally proposed to me as which ones did I not want to do, and I truthfully said that I wasn't closed off to any opportunity, but that my preference was toward logistics or maintenance.  Lastly, the board ended in a typical fashion for any interview - by asking me if I had any questions for them.  Make sure you come prepared with a question!  I let that one slip my mind, so I had to try to think of something on the spot.  

I left the board feeling strong about my performance, thanks to their positive feedback during the process.  I tend to do well in interviews, and coupled with my strong package, knew that I had made a solid case for myself.

So, what were the results?

Well, if you're a fan of my Facebook page, you've already read that I was indeed successful in receiving approval of my nomination for commissioning!

What happens now?  I have a year to find an available officer slot in my wing, interview for that position, get the A-OK from that commander, pass a commissioning physical, and secure my school dates for OTS.  If I go beyond that year, I'll have to begin the process again from scratch. 

Thank you for all of your encouragement during this process!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Deserving Airman Commissioning Program

Long overdue post on what I've been up to with my military career!  If you've been following along for a while now, you know I've kicked around the idea of commissioning and I'm finally throwing my hat into the ring.  The program I'm about to describe is Reserve specific - if you're Guard or Active Duty, please speak with a member of your leadership or Military Personnel Section (MPS) to determine the pathways available to commissioning that are applicable to you.

The Deserving Airman Commissioning Program recognizes enlisted Airmen that show potential for leadership opportunities through commissioning.  When applying for DACP, it is expected that you have already earned your bachelor's degree.  You also must take your commissioning oath before your 35th birthday.  If you aspire to be a pilot or a navigator, you must commission by your 30th birthday.  Here's a general timeline of how the process occurs, to the best of my understanding at this time:
  • Submit package for DACP [more on this in a bit].
  • Meet the DACP board.
  • Upon approval of DACP board, package is sent to the Numbered Air Force (NAF) and then to the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) for subsequent approvals.
  • Member completes statements of understanding if all approvals have been gathered.
  • Given an available slot in your unit, leave for Officer Training School.  I am unsure of whether you attend the officer's version of technical training immediately following OTS.
  • Return to your unit as a Second Lieutenant and begin training/working in your new squadron! 

The DACP board at your unit determines if you are commissionable, but the NAF/AFRC determine your ultimate fate.  In my particular Wing, you can apply once a year if you do not successfully make it through the process one year.

The package for my Wing consisted of the following items:
  • AF IMT 24 - Application for Appointment as Reserve of the Air Force or USAF without Component
  • Last five EPRs (Enlisted Performance Reports), if applicable.  [In my case, as an SrA, I haven't had any yet.]
  • Personal Resume
  • Cover Letter, "Why I Want To Be An Officer."
  • AF IMT 56 - Application & Evaluation for Training Leading to a Commission in the United States Air Force
  • Losing Commander's Letter of Recommendation
  • Official Transcripts - sent directly to your MPS from your college/university.
  • Records Review Listing - you'll request this from your MPS.  [They kept mine on file and included it in my package.]
  • Official scores for your Air Force Officer Qualification Test (AFOQT).  My Wing requires a Verbal score of at least 15 and a Quantitative score of at least 10.
  • Fitness standard memo from your Unit Commander - verifying a current passing PT score.
  • Any applicable waivers.  [They actually have "Moral Waivers," if you have anything unfavorable in your past that might need explanation in order to be considered.]

Overall, the package isn't too difficult to put together.  The Chief of Career Development in my MPS was very helpful in showing me how to fill out the forms, which can be daunting.  There were a number of fields that I found out I didn't need to complete.  I was also able to view the package of a colleague, which was much appreciated.  I had the most difficulty with the cover letter, of all things.  I feel as though I said it best in a tweet at the beginning of this month - I know that I'll have a fulfilling and successful career regardless of whether I'm an enlisted or a commissioned member of the Air Force.  So, why this path?  I mulled that one over for quite some time.

All of that being said, I meet the board during my December UTA, bright and early on Saturday morning!  I'm feeling much more confident about this board than the last, since this is done in an interview format where they'll be looking at the "whole person."  I feel as though I have a strong package, and I generally do well with interviews.  I have to meet the board in service dress, which means I'm breaking out the brand new maternity service dress.  I've got to shine if people are going to see past the blueberry muu muu.  ;)

All in all, I'm beginning the process even though I'm not even able to do PT again until 18 Oct 2013.  I can only imagine that my OTS date, if chosen, wouldn't be until after that time.  My window of opportunity is limited, as I turn 32 in December, so I can't wait forever.  We'll see where my Air  Force journey takes me next!

Friday, November 2, 2012

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In #76

It's time for MilSpouse (First) Friday Fill-In with Wife of a Sailor!  I'm in a particularly cheerful mood since it's Friday and DH comes home tomorrow!  Yay!  Let's do this!

1.  What's one thing in the past month you would have changed?  It's been a busy month, with a number of IEP meetings, preparing to leave my students for nine days, the ORI, and three weekends in a row (including this weekend) of military duty!  We were also unpacking and had remodels going on.  All of that being said, I wished I would've kept up my running schedule more.  Despite being pregnant, I don't like being inactive, especially since I'll still have to get in shape after the baby for my next PT test.  I don't want to completely let myself go and make it more difficult for myself later.

2.  What was your favorite thing that happened in October?  I really enjoyed the time I spent with my AF family during the ORI!  We made many happy trips to McDonald's and enjoyed lots of fun moments during our time there.  I got to know one of the newer Personnelists really well, and always enjoy making new connections and friendships.  I also enjoyed the amazing new sonograms of mini-muffin that I got at my last doctor's appointment!  Can't wait for DH to attend the next doctor's appointment with me!

3.  What dish makes the Thanksgiving holiday for you?  (Bonus points if you share the recipe)  Pumpkin Dessert Squares from Williams-Sonoma!  When I used to work there, we would make these with the pumpkin butter we sold.  Alternately, you can use cranberry relish instead of pumpkin butter and they turn out divine!  I'd even be willing to bet that apple butter would be another option for you.  Super easy, super delicious!  Thankfully, I found the recipe online.  I'd seen a jar of pumpkin butter at the commissary a few weeks back and snatched it up, because the W-S is far from my home and theirs tends to be pricier (that goes without saying).  I really need to make a batch soon.  I don't know if I can last until Thanksgiving without making some!

4.  Will you be participating in the MilSpouse Secret Santa?  Alas, no, I tend to be a party pooper.  This is the first year (unlike the last two) where we can afford to start buying gifts for family members again, so I think that's going to be my first priority.  The last few Christmases have been rough for us.

5.  What are you looking forward to in December?  I wish I could say the family trip to Mexico for the holidays, but that's not likely to happen this year because of DH's training schedule and the fact that we both would have to get command permission to travel there.  I'm looking forward to volunteering at NORAD Tracks Santa again and having time off to relax and enjoy my new home!  I'm really looking forward to decorating in our new home.  I've been ready for that since before Halloween!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!  I have a UTA this weekend and my commissioning package due by the close of business (COB) on Sunday, so it's going to be busy like usual, but DH comes home on Saturday!  I'm eager to have my partner back in town, especially since he hasn't seen the new house since all of the remodels and closing has happened.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Operational Readiness

"We interrupt this ORI for a photo opp..."
Much has been going on in my Wing lately that I haven't discussed online, due to the sensitive nature of the work.  Sure, you could've figured it out if you buzzed around online, but better to wait and tell you after the fact.

This last weekend we finished up our Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI).  Can you hear the big sigh of relief from everyone on Peterson?  You should!  We've been working up for this for an entire year now!  Let me backtrack for everyone who may be new to the Air Force...

In a nutshell, the ORE/ORI is BMT's BEAST on a much grander scale and with more at stake.  At BMT, if you don't succeed while at BEAST, there's no penalty against you.  It's a one shot deal, and you're competing against other Zones for a title that won't mean anything once you leave BMT.  An ORI is judged by Inspector Generals and various Colonels to determine your Wing's readiness to deploy.  Obviously, if you're not ready to deploy, you're not able to fulfill your Air Force mission.  No one wants that stigma, no one wants that top-down scrutiny.

The ORE/ORI is made up of "players" who are the primary participants, as well as alternates who have to go through the same preparation and training in case they must step in and go on the "deployment."  All members of the Wing were expected to inform their employers in advance of this time period that we'd be busy, and we took our Annual Tour (AT) during time.  Even if we weren't a primary or an alternate, our support was expected at the home station, which is why I was on orders for almost two weeks.  As a military service member and a Reservist, my employer is legally obligated to release me and preserve my job when I'm away serving.  Thus, I took a little break from the students and donned my ABUs!  Plus, I had been personally requested to participate as an assistant to our Chief of Installation Personnel Readiness (IPR).

Even PDF members need to make drive-thru runs!
The IPR office does a host of classified tasks and knows the whereabouts of all deployed members at all time.  Over the period I worked with them, we prepared briefs for our primaries and alternates, managing that event, and controlling the entrance to only those with the appropriate security clearance.  When our members deployed, we prepared their NATO and deployment orders, briefed them a few more times, and took accountability countless times.  We were a tight knit group, spending tons of quality time together. 

During the both the ORE and the ORI I worked on the Personnel Deployment Function (PDF) line, which out-processes and in-processes deploying members.  While I didn't work the PDF line for deployers this time, I did get to work the reception line!  Reception is my favorite part, one I referenced back in this blog post.  One of the biggest responsibilities of my job as a Personnelist is accountability.  During reception I get to meet the planes on the flight line, retrieve the manifest documents that detail the members on board the plane, as well as pick up crew orders and flight orders.  For someone typically cooped up in an office, you can imagine that it's pretty exciting for me.  There's just something amazing about being out there that reassures me that I made the right decision when enlisting in the Air Force.

It's been a busy month, to say the least.  I've been on duty for a total of fourteen days so far, and I'm heading back again this weekend for the regular UTA.  I've closed on a house, prepared my commissioning packet, and put my new home together, all while entering my second trimester!  Thankfully, my days of being without DH are coming to a close very quickly.  Many, many good things happening in my life right now and I feel exceptionally blessed!

[Side note: I do not know the status of our ORI at this point, if we "passed" or not.  A failure would mean having to repeat the process in six months, which no one wants to do.]

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Parenting and Privilege

A good Air Force blogger friend, Mrs. H, brought this "current event" to my awareness tonight, and as a pregnant Airman, I feel obligated to weigh in.

Here's a quick background story:
  • Rebecca Edmonds, life-long Navy brat, decides she wants to serve and follows in the family footsteps.
  • Edmonds, a practicing Catholic, applies for a ROTC scholarship, signs contracts and accepts $92k in scholarship money, and attends the Catholic university Marquette.
  • Edmonds signed a contract and received no less than eight medical briefs reminding her that she needs to immediately notify her command of a change in her medical status.
  • Thirteen weeks before commissioning, Edmonds discovers she's pregnant.
  • Unmarried Edmonds decides to keep her baby and is separated from the process, and now has to repay the $92k.

Before I weigh in on this particular story, let me share something with my single moms out there - if you are a single parent, you cannot serve on active duty.  The Reserves and Guard are different.  I had a number of single mothers in my flight at BMT, but that is because we were mainly Guard and Reserve.  There are opportunities for single mothers to serve in the Air Force.  Granted, I'm assuming that if you're a single mother there may be opportunities to switch to active duty in the future if you marry, but that is something only your recruiter can confirm.  As a Reservist, you could potentially get an ART (Active Reserve Technician) position where you'd work a government job in a squadron as a full-time employee, so you could work in the Air Force full-time.  Bottom line, Edmonds could serve her country as an officer in the Air Force, although she wouldn't be able to do so on active duty as long as she's a single parent.

The article presents this story in a very skewed fashion, not surprisingly.  I think this is a case of a girl from a privileged family thinking the rules didn't apply to her.  I'm making the assumption that her family is fairly well-to-do, given her dad's career as a Naval officer (not to mention the fact that they've hired a military attorney to fight this dismissal).  Like I mentioned before, there were single mothers in my flight at BMT and they knew that active duty wasn't an option due to their marital status.  This is not shocking, and clearly Edmonds knew the same based on the information presented in the article where she kept hesitating to tell her leadership.  The Air Force has made a blanket policy that single mothers (and I'm assuming single parents with custodial rights in general) can't serve on active duty, period.  Regardless of whether or not you have a supportive family that's planning to drop everything if you deploy, it's a no-no.  There have been too many issues in the past with service members who've had family care plans fall apart, who then go AWOL or refuse to deploy.  I completely understand why a blanket policy helps cover our butts.

When a young adult accepts a ROTC scholarship or an appointment to the Air Force Academy, they make the commitment to repay that scholarship money by serving a specified number of years.  [Cadets at the Academy must be single, childfree, and under the age of 23.]  My brother had to make the same agreement when he went that route.  If you fail to fulfill the contractual agreement, you have to repay the money.  Edmonds clearly dismissed the seriousness of her contract and the eight medical briefs she received.  I firmly believe that if she was that strong in her faith that she didn't believe in birth control or abortion, she shouldn't have been having sex with her boyfriend.  I question her priorities and motivation.  If I were thirteen weeks away from finishing my degree and commissioning, I wouldn't be jeopardizing my future by having unprotected sex.  I would be chomping at the bit to get my butter bars and learn of my first duty station.

Edmonds chose to keep her baby, as a single mother.  She made a choice that negated another.  She chose motherhood over commissioning as an active duty officer.  She can't have it all, just like I can't have it all, nor could the single mothers in my flight.  While I waited in the DEP program, I took extreme precautions to not get pregnant, knowing that it would be a deal-breaker for me and my enlistment.  That's what responsible adults do.  

A friend of Mrs. H's put it best.  It boils down to the Air Force Core Value of Service Before Self.  Apparently Edmonds didn't realize that we take our Core Values pretty seriously.  If you can't live them, you can't lead by example.  I'm not even suggesting that she should've gotten an abortion here.  She chose sexual gratification over active duty service.  Clearly her military service wasn't her top priority and source of motivation.

[The opinions expressed within this post are my own, and do not reflect the position of the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, or the Department of Defense.  If you have questions about your own eligibility for service, please contact your nearest recruiter.]

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

You're pregnant, now what?

[The experiences, policies, and procedures I share within this post are mine and my Wing's.  Your experience and requirements may differ.  Speak with your leadership to clarify policies.]

I found out I was pregnant a couple weeks before my September UTA, and had my first doctor's appointment that confirmed it officially just days before.  While my intent was to wait for the end of the first trimester to tell the masses, I knew that just wasn't going to happen with my Air Force family.  Keep this in mind when you go into your squadron for the first time after having your medical provider confirm that you are indeed pregnant - you will need to tell your leadership as soon as possible.  My Wing's policy states that you must immediately notify your commander, supervisor, and the medical squadron.  My supervisor was a no-brainer (more on that in a sec), but telling the commander was somewhat awkward.  "Sir, I'm required to tell you that I'm knocked up."  I work in an office, so it's not a huge change in my everyday duties.  

Letting your chain of command know promptly is essential to your safety and the safety of your baby.  You'll need to be put on a medical profile stating that you have a "Duty Limiting Condition."

Prior to my UTA, I called my supervisor and informed her of my pregnancy, asking about my next steps.  She let me know that I needed to report to the clinic with documentation from my civilian doctor verifying my pregnancy.  Fortunately, my doctor was able to fax me a quick note that indicated that I was receiving prenatal care, along with my expected due date.

Waiting at the clinic took a while that morning, as I was low on the priority list in relation to other Airmen who were there for annual physicals.  When I finally got in, it was strictly a verification of my documentation from the doctor, a briefing on the Wing's policies, and the issuance of my profile.  They didn't do a separate medical examination or make me take a pregnancy test.

Here's the nuts and bolts from my brief:

  • I can keep attending drill (although in a restricted status) up until my 34th week of pregnancy.  If I want to continue after that, I must live within 50 miles of my duty station [I do], and I must have support from my commander, my doctor, and if I want to do so.
  • A military doctor can restrict me from participating if deemed appropriate.
  • I have to provide a letter from my medical provider "summarizing [my] current health, physical restrictions and expected date of delivery" as soon as possible and every 60 days after the fact to determine if I'm still fit to serve.
  • If I want to perform duties in the continental United States (CONUS) away from my home station, I have to have clearance from a military doctor.  I must also provide a statement from my civilian doctor approving travel.
  • If I go into labor during a UTA, I'll be transferred to a civilian hospital.  Pregnancy will not prompt a Line of Duty (LOD) determination - that's where the military is responsible for your military care because you "hurt" yourself in the line of duty.  Basically, I need to make sure I have my own insurance.
  • After giving birth, I can come back to duty with an approval note from my doctor and after being cleared by the military doctor.
I signed off indicating my understanding of the above items and a letter was given to me to provide to my supervisor.  The next part was my profile, AF Form 469, which took a bit to generate.  It lays out duty restrictions and mobility restrictions.  Here's what it spells out for me:

  1. No standing/marching longer than 15 minutes.
  2. The inactivated flu vaccine [shot, not the spray] is recommended.  I can't get a live virus immunization without approval from my doctor.
  3. My duty hours may be limited by my doctor.  At 28 weeks, I am encouraged to work an 8 hour shift, but it's not mandatory.
  4. I'm excused from wearing the Chemical Warfare Defense Ensemble [No MOPP gear, whoo hoo!]  I don't have to wear a gas mask after 20 weeks or do a gas mask confidence test.  I don't have to wear/carry a flak vest or web belt.
  5. After 20 weeks, I can wear closed toed, plain, soft-soled black shoes instead of boots.  If I was in an environment that required it, they could be steel toed.
  6. No carrying, lifting, pushing/pulling anything heavier than 25 pounds after 20 weeks.
  7. I'm exempt from mobility during my profile and for six months after my release date.
  8. I have PCS/TDY restrictions.
  9. My PT test is deferred for six months after my profile expires.  I can continue to participate in unit fitness programs unless my doctor says otherwise.  [I won't test again until 18 October.]
  10. I may carry a firearm if my duty requires it up to 5 months, but I have to be excused from firing range practice and duties while I'm on profile.
  11. I'm disqualified from flying duties and other special duty operators.
  12. I have to avoid ladders or working at heights after 13 weeks.
That was my day on duty as a newly pregnant Airman.  TONS of information and much more than I expected.  I quickly learned it was going to be too difficult to hide my news from everyone.  Sitting in the clinic that long, getting a profile, yet looking totally healthy and fine?  I knew questions would come up quickly.  Not to mention, I work in the office where we do clothing issue, so I'd need to speak up when it came time to ask for my maternity uniforms.  Fortunately, I've made it through my first trimester successfully!

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Own Force Management

Oh, hello blog reading friends!  ;)  I've been telling you half truths for a while now, and it's finally time to come clean!

If you follow along on the AHE Facebook page, you saw my big announcement this last Friday.  This wasn't a recent discovery, but something that's been kept under wraps for a while now.  Remember that trip to Sheppard AFB to visit DH for our 5th anniversary?  Um, yeah...

Needless to say, we've spawned a Super Air Force Baby!  I joke that when we're doing that future summer vacation of "The Great Tour of Air Force Bases in America," we'll be able to show the little tyke the room in lodging where the magic happened.  Wouldn't every child appreciate that knowledge?!  ;)

The above photo is from our first ultrasound, when I was eight weeks along.  I'm currently thirteen weeks and four days, and we're due April 18th.  I also joke that DH has artfully dodged the entire first trimester, since he's been away at tech school, although I know that he'd much rather be home with me. I should be at about seventeen weeks by the time he's home.  Fortunately, it's been a fairly smooth trimester for me, which I'm thankful for since I've had to manage a move, renovations, teaching full-time, and putting in extra hours on top of my pregnancy needs.

Lest you fear that this blog will move away from its central focus and suddenly revolve around my future spawn, I bring you "Enlisted and Expecting," a new series that will highlight aspects of my pregnancy/parenting experience as it relates to my service in the Air Force.  

In the meantime, I'm still trying to get settled in my home life so that I can bring you more content.  That's always the goal.  I'm currently on orders, with a purpose that will be discussed upon their completion.  I am still pressing forward with my commissioning package, and again, I'll update you on that as well.

Thank you for your continued patience and support of AHE!

Friday, September 14, 2012

AF Form 2096

Air Force Form 2096, the Classification/On-The-Job Training Action form.  The magical document that pending my signature, my supervisor's signature, my commander's signature, and the signature of the chief of education and training means...

I'm officially a 5 skill-level Personnelist!

Yes, it's official!  Today, Friday the 14th of September, is my big day!  It's hard to believe that only a year ago I was returning home from BMT and tech school and in-processing into my base.  I've been in the operational Air Force for a full year at this point.  I'm proud of everything that I've accomplished in such a short period of time.  I've been motivated every step of the way, and that drive pays off today.  My seasoning training is done, all of my tasks have been mastered in my training record, and my time in training is complete.  I'm no longer an Apprentice, I'm a Journeyman.

I have much to learn, of course, but this is a big step in my military career and many more doors open as a result of me achieving this skill level (opportunities to volunteer for deployment or training at other bases, the chance to go to Airman Leader School once I've been in long enough).
Now that my five-level is on the books, the education and training office can put in my nomination for my CCAF degree, since I've completed all of the requirements and was just waiting on the award of my five-level.  I should be recognized with the rest of the graduates at the next Wing Commander's Call, which I'm hoping DH will be home in time to witness. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

Mrs. S from Lipstick & Leathernecks tagged me for the Liebster Blog Award and I figured I'd indulge, just to bring you more since I've been holding out on you for so long.  I'll try to keep it AF-related to hold your interest.  ;)

1. Each person must list 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the 11 questions that the tagger has set for you plus you MUST create a set of 11 new questions for the 11 people you tag. 
3. Choose 11 bloggers
5. Absolutely no tag backs.
6. The bloggers have to have less than 200 followers.
7. Go inform them that you nominated them for the award.
[I'm going to cheat and skip those rules.  I hope you'll forgive me.]

About Me
1.  I haven't told you yet about the sizing of military uniforms.  It's ridiculous.  I call myself "Spongebob ABU Pants" for a reason.  I'm normally wear a medium shirt.  My ABU top is an eighteen, which is what I was issued at BMT.  I've tried smaller sizes, but the smallest one with the arm length I'd need is a 16.  I'm not looking forward to paying to have them fitted.
2.  After being really successful at BMT, I felt like my first instructor at tech school really didn't like me and I couldn't understand why.  I don't think I was that sassy.  Eventually, we got a new instructor who I had a much better relationship with.
3.  The prior service Airman in my tech school class was a little younger than me.  I ended up feeling really competitive in the end and I may have been a little excited when I realized I had pass him up in my test scores.  We were neck and neck for Distinguished Graduate.
4.  I learned at tech school that volunteering for CQ (12 hour shifts) isn't always a dumb move.  I volunteered when leadership was in a pinch and managed to wrangle a 341 that granted me a "No PT" day.  I used it on my graduation day, so I could sleep longer and put on makeup.
5.  My first choices for AFSCs were Intel, Public Affairs/Historian, and Paralegal.  I was also convinced that I wanted to reclass to Military Equal Opportunity (MEO).
6.  On a selfish note, I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to go to Mexico this Christmas on vacation (it's my family's tradition) because of traveling restrictions for military members.  This would be the first year in a long time that we've been able to afford it and that we could go together.  We'll cross our fingers and hope for the best!
7.  The IP Casino in Biloxi, MS (Keesler AFB) has a pizza restaurant that has an amazing scallop appetizer.  I miss fresh seafood, especially scallops!  The only bummer is that you only get four in the appetizer.
8.  Tech school DFACs are some of the best eating you're going to get on a military installation, mark my words.  We don't have 1/3 of those options at the Peterson DFAC.  Seriously, take advantage and load up!  I miss the made-to-order sandwiches and the ice cream bar!
9.  I still carry a tech school wallet when I'm in uniform.  They're approximately $4 or less and they're a laminated paper-type material with a clear window.  SUPER convenient for keeping the bar code of your CAC accessible for dining at the DFAC.
10.  I love that I regularly get compliments about my AF hair (in regulation, looks near-perfect, etc.).  The impression is worth the effort!  Gotta be squared away!
11.  If you're going to invest in a nice, tactical backpack, go for the solid black ones.  They're cheaper and you can wear them in blues or ABUs.  While I am glad I have an ABU one, it sucks having to hand-carry it when I'm in blues.                          

Mrs. S' Questions
1.  What is your favorite season?  Living in Colorado, I'd say spring or fall, but I'm leaning towards spring when it starts warming up but before it gets too hot.  Spring has the best candy and idea napping weather!
2.  What's the best Halloween costume you've ever worn?  My mom used to sew my costumes as a child.  I really haven't dressed up as an adult, or not that I really remember.  One of my favorite costumes was Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, although my mom made the dress in pink because I wanted it pink instead of blue. 
3.  What did you want to be when you grew up?  Are you doing that now?  I used to say I wanted to be an art teacher, and while I'm not doing that, I'm still int he teaching field! 
4.  When is your birthday?  December 31st, the last day of the year!
5.  Show us something funny.
6.  Favorite joke.  I'm really not a joke person.  I'm failing you, folks!  
7.  What's in your purse right now?  Too much crap!  My Erin Condren planner, a flash drive, car keys, school keys, wallet, makeup bag (lip products, blotting papers, floss), gum, pens/pencils/lead/eraser, various scattered business cards, my school access card, school ID card, hand lotion.
8.  What time do you usually wake up in the morning?  0530, every morning that I'm teaching.  I don't sleep in too late on the weekend these days.
9.  Dog or cat person?  I'm not opposed to dogs, but I've never owned one.  I grew up having cats.  We don't have any pets right now.
10.  Favorite store?  Sephora or The Container Store.
11.  What color is your couch?  Red!

Milspouse Friday Fill-In #74

I can't have you all thinking that I've fallen off the face of the earth, and while I've been hoping to bring you that story from the AF News Service, it hasn't been published yet.  That being said, MFF it is!  Proof that I'm still alive and kicking, although busier than ever!

1.  What's one thing in the past month you would have changed?  I honestly can't say much, but I would like to do without the craziness that seems to be mandatory when the school year starts.  I've been flooded with work, administrative tasks, IEPs to write, etc.  It's daunting and it hasn't left me with much down time.  If there was a way to make it more manageable and put more hours in my day, I would!

2.  What was your favorite thing that happened in August?  Having a long-lost wingman from BMT and tech out here for a mutual wingman's wedding.  It was great to see her and we had an amazing weekend bombing around!

3.  What did you do to celebrate Labor Day?  What else?  I labored.  I used that day to pack up the living room and dining room in preparation for our move.  I really wasn't feeling up for gatherings.

4.  What do you HAVE to have handy by your bedside?  My cell phone, my iPad, and a water bottle.  Lip balm of some variety is also a necessity, as well as glasses.

5.  What are you looking forward to in September?  Being done with this move, done with paying rent, and done with our rental home!  That's the biggest to-do in September that is completely consuming me right now.  I'm hoping for a smooth closing, although we're hitting bumps in the road that are out of our control.  I'm not the praying type, but I'm praying that it all comes together and the stars align.  In the mean time, I'm wiped out between working, putting in extra hours [always working at those financial goals!], and packing.  I've had to scrap my running schedule because there's just not enough hours or energy in my day.  I'm looking forward to regaining some normalcy in a new setting.  Ooh...I'm also looking forward to officially being a 5-level Personnelist on the 14th of this month, followed by the application for my CCAF degree!

Hope everyone's September is off to a great start!  Eyes on the prize for me, as October means we're in our new home and DH is almost done with training.  Plus, FIL and I are escaping to the Vail area for a wedding.  Good times!