Monday, April 30, 2012

Miscellany Monday

miscellany monday at lowercase lettersIf you've been reading AHE for a while, you've probably seen Miscellany Mondays around here before, although it's been a while.  For my new(er) readers, I love getting in on Carissa Graham's Miscellany Monday link-up as a way to add a more personal touch to the blog and recap my weekend.  As you can imagine, Mondays are some of the nuttier days for me, coming back into the classroom after a weekend.  The kids are crazy, I'm crazy.  On with the crazy!

1.  It's just nuts how this school year has flown by.  I came into the school year a month late, since I was finishing up tech school last summer.  I'm four weeks - twenty work days - away from summer.  A mere twenty work days stand between me and the completion of my sixth year of teaching.  That seems pretty remarkable right now, when you consider that year five is the turnover year for SpEd and that I was pretty disgruntled/frustrated in my first year or two [I didn't think I was going to last long in the classroom].  Of course, I'm decades away from retirement, but I'm closer to year ten than I am to year zero at this point!  I need to get cracking, I need to write the final for my seniors ASAP.

2.  May is going to be non-stop from start to finish.  I'm exhausted just thinking about it.  This weekend is drill, next weekend is our vacation to Durango, the weekend after that is my first half marathon [yikes!], and the weekend after that is graduation.  The Monday following our Saturday graduation, I'll be starting seasoning training, which is the extent of my summer plans.  As long as I can find time to schedule a nap here and there, I'll be a happy camper.  I'm excited for these things, don't get me wrong, but it's going to be hectic!

3.  I've dropped little bits here and there about the fact that we've put a contract in on a short sale home.  It's been over a month at this point of just sitting and waiting, as we expected.  I haven't been holding my breath, to say the least.  Turns out they haven't been able to contact the agent for the lien holder, so they're having to track down someone else today...you know, because the house is supposed to foreclose this Wednesday.  Mhmm...I hope my money/contract/interest is looking pretty snazzy right now, in comparison with a foreclosure!  Hopefully this will help speed the process along, but who knows.  Any of my readers successfully purchase a short sale home?  Luckily, the place is right here in our same small town, so we won't go far if I'm having to pack and move over the summer.  It needs work, naturally, but it's going to be a killer deal on a decent chunk of land (half an acre) if we're able to successfully score it.  Yay for no HOA too!

4.  I've been trying to put more effort into house cleaning lately, which I despise.  I just don't have the energy or motivation after a full day of work to workout, make dinner, and clean the house.  I'm focusing on one room a weekend, and doing a deep cleaning.  I feel like even when I finish, I'll have to start over with the first one.  Our house is just too big for DH, FIL and I.  I'm looking forward to downsizing to something more manageable if we're able to purchase this short sale home.  Not to mention saying goodbye to stairs!  I grew up in a single story home, and while this short sale is a split level, the majority of our living area is upstairs (aside from the laundry).  Downsizing is all the more reason to start throwing stuff out, and by that I mean donating to charity or the Airman's Attic, etc.  We could definitely stand to get rid of a few things around our place, although FIL looked at me like I was a little crazy when I made the suggestion.  I try to keep my "collections" in check these days.  :)

5.  How could I post and not mention the Warrior Games this week?!  Living in Colorado Springs, the home of the Olympic Training Center, not to mention a huge military community, we have the honor of hosting the Warrior Games, which are the Paralympics for wounded warriors.  All of the games are free, so as long as you're available, you can get out and support your branch of service!  They encourage service members to come in uniform, so I'll be out there this week to cheer on my fellow Airmen and show support for all of our warriors.  This year marks the addition of British service members as well, and I heard the rumor that Prince Harry is supposed to be in town!  The FLOTUS is supposed to speak at the opening ceremonies, but the website specifically states that it's a private ceremony.  I didn't get a chance to go last year, so I'm eager to check it out this week.  I am an American Airman.  Wingman, Leader, Warrior.  I will never leave an Airman behind. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Touring AHE

New to Aim High Erin?  I put together a screencast this evening that will tour you through this site and all of the related social media sites.  Learn how to get the most out of AHE, so that you can be knowledgeable, empowered, and motivated to succeed in your Air Force career!

Monday, April 23, 2012

BMT: Military Bearing

I received a great question today from a reader who wanted me to explain military bearing.  Military bearing is a phrase I drop around here quite frequently, but haven't ever described it in detail.  Forgive me, readers, let me tell you more!

Military bearing in the operational Air Force boils down to professionalism and the way in which you conduct and compose yourself, especially while in uniform.  A fantastic phrase used to describe military bearing stressed "decorum and discipline."  As a member of the United States Air Force, you serve as a representative of our great branch of service.  Whether you're on duty or off, people will judge you based upon your behavior.  I'm not a total party pooper, but your reputation as an Airman is a precious thing, not to be tarnished.  Be mindful of your actions, as you never know when you're being observed.

Military bearing will get hammered into you at BMT, where it takes a slightly different tone than the one presented above.  When you read "military bearing," think "poker face."  Military bearing is the ability to remain composed despite the circumstance - not showing any emotions (especially disappointment in yourself or fear), not reacting to sounds or commotion around you, and staying on point.  While marching, military bearing is staring straight ahead with a closed mouth/straight lips, etc.  Military bearing is standing at attention and not crying or shaking when an MTI is yelling at you.  Military bearing is professionalism and the lack of emotions in most instances.  You'll gain military bearing just as the weeks pass, since it takes a little getting used to if you're a more emotional person.

The sooner you solidify your military bearing, the better.  MTIs work at "breaking you down," seeing if they can get you to crack while trying to hold your military bearing.  If they succeed, they will continue to hound you.  If they realize they can't get to you, can't upset you, then they'll leave you alone (for the most part).  Developing military bearing while at BMT is a survival tactic - the sooner you start exercising self-discipline and discipline of emotions, the greater your chance of survival.

It's going to be a challenge at first, but you will get through it and you'll emerge a confident, self-assured Airman!  My husband always wondered how I'd do, since I cry fairly easily, but I was able to pull it off and let myself shine at BMT.  I only ended up crying once that I remember, but that's a story for another day!  ;)

Friday, April 20, 2012

BMT: End Of Course Test

The End of Course (EOC) test is the final written evaluation of all of your education and training at BMT, which is concentrated on War Skills and Military Studies (WSMS).  The classroom training is what you'll be assessed on, not the practical, hands-on training.  That training is assessed through your performance at BEAST.

The EOC is taken during your 7WOT.  We took ours on Friday, one of the days where we were wearing our blues.  It was a proud moment to walk into there and take that test, knowing that we were days away from graduation.  Testing security is very strict for the EOC, so prior to testing you'll get the speech about not cheating, not disclosing questions on the EOC, etc.  It is a Scantron test, so you'll find out the results fairly quickly after you complete the test.  Any trainees that fail the test will be informed ASAP, but more on that later.

The EOC only covers material presented in the BMTSG, and only certain chapters in the BMTSG.  This is the Air Force - work smarter, not harder.  Make sure you study only the necessary chapters in preparation for the EOC.  There is so much information in the BMTSG - almost six hundred pages - so you can't possibly study it all.  Out of fifty-eight chapters in the BMTSG, thirty-two of them address topics presented on the EOC.  Do yourself a favor early on and bookmark, tab, or highlight these chapters, so you know which to study for.  Each chapter has a series of review questions at the end of it.  Make sure to study those in depth, and skim/review the chapters as best as you can.

The EOC has one hundred questions and is a closed book, multiple choice test.  If you're shooting to be an Honor Graduate, you have to score at least a 90% on the test.  Any less than that and you can count yourself out of the running.  Per the BMTSG, if you fail the EOC you'll re-test using a different version of the test.  You must achieve a 70% to pass the EOC.

For those of you who aren't good test takers, don't start stressing yourselves out.  You'll have mandatory study time in the dorm, where you'll have a thirty minute chunk of time blocked off (almost daily) to review your BMTSG.  When you're at the mini-mall, you can pick up some study materials/supplies, such as highlighters or index cards.  If you need a study buddy or tips while you're down there, you can consult with your Academic Monitor for advice and encouragement.  

Buckle down, trainees, and good luck on your EOC!  The toughest part is staying awake in class!  

Milbloggies: Last Day to Vote!

This is it, folks, the final hour!  Voting for the Milbloggies close tonight at 5 PM PST/8 PM EST.  If you haven't already and you're moved to do so, please give Aim High Erin some love under the "Best U.S. Air Force Blog" category.  You can vote once on all devices - computers, smart phones, and tablets.  Registration on the website is not required and it literally takes two seconds to complete.  You don't even have to vote in all of the categories.

Need some recommendations for other categories?  I'll be supporting my friend John of Vintage Engineer Boots in the Marine Corps category and Natalia of Army of Two in the Army category.  In the Navy category I'm excited about Feminine Fatigues, a new(er) blog that I found thanks to the Milbloggies.  As for the other categories, I'm undecided or with preference.  The Military Spouse category is always a tough one for me, since there's so many talented writers in there. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

BMT: The Airman's Run

The Airman's Run is the first event of graduation weekend at BMT, and therefore the first time your family will see you and you'll "see" them.  Why the quotation marks?  That's because you're not supposed to break military bearing and look at them, but I digress!  

The Airman's Run takes place on the street behind the Reception Center.  See those covered pavilions in the picture to the left?  That's the Retreat Pad, so your families and loved ones don't have to go far to transition from one event to the next.  [Review the graduation schedule here.]  The Airman's Run begins bright and early at 8:00 AM on Thursday, so make sure your family knows they need to arrive for the festivities on Wednesday night if they're going to see everything.  You'll go to bed the night before in your PT shorts and your squadron t-shirt, which is the required uniform for the run.  We did one practice session during 8WOT for the Airman's Run, on Tuesday or Wednesday, in lieu of our normal PT session.

You won't eat the morning of the Airman's Run, but you'll have a snack when you return from the run (as described in the Retreat post).  You'll probably be too excited to be concerned about eating at this point, so no big deal.  Early that morning, you'll march with your flight over the bridge.  On the other side of the bridge (pictured to the right) is a large dirt lot where you'll wait with your flight for the festivities to begin.  There are a number of Porta-Potties on the lot if you have to go, but make it speedy.  You'll do a quick warm before the main event begins.  Everyone is amped up at this point, so you'll be hearing lots of war cries and squadron chants.  Prior to taking off, they'll announce the Top PT Male and Female and take photos with those trainees.  Check out these photos later on the BMT FB page.  These individuals, as well as the top PT trainees in each squadron, will run with the commander at the front of the pack, instead of with their squadron and flight.

Your squadron commander will come out to the field to greet your flights, as they'll be running right in front of you.  Finally, you'll all line up on the street and you'll take off!  You won't hear much of an announcement, you'll just start seeing everyone take off, singing jodies (cadences).  You'll be organized by squadron and you'll run with your brother/sister flight.  The guidon bearers will be running with the guidon the entire time, holding it at a diagonal.  The sort of running you'll do is called "Double Time," and it's pretty slow.  The Airman's Run is about 2 to 3 miles, if that, and you have to maintain DCID ("Dress, Cover, Interval, Distance") with relationship to other trainees while you do so.  Being at the back of the flight can prove to be really difficult during this process, since you'll rubber band back and forth, especially around corners.  If you watch the YouTube video below, you'll see that it's not pretty at times!  You'll do jodies throughout the run and your MTIs will encourage you to really sound off during this process to please your commander.  Other MTIs from your squadron will also join you, as well as your First Sergeant.  They'll wear squadron t-shirts as well, but while yours are cotton, theirs are a technical fabric.

Hitting the top of the bridge on the run is the best, because you can see all of the families and loved ones ready, waiting, and cheering below.  Your MTI will lead jodies and your squadron chant the entire time.  Other MTIs may step in for him/her, as his/her voice goes hoarse.  Amongst all of the other flights, it will be very hard to hear.  Being in the very back, I couldn't hear my MTI at all.  All I heard was my brother flight's MTI behind me, and you'll be doing different jodies than them.  I felt horrible, since I wanted to sound off nice and loud, especially as the Dorm Chief, but I couldn't hear at all.  When we were practicing our run, one of the MTIs called me out on it and I had to let him know that it was impossible to hear.  During the actual Airman's Run, I tried to mouth the words as best as possible when I couldn't here.  What else can you do?

You'll run to the end of the street, make a left, u-turn, and head right back on up and over the bridge.  It's an easy run and you'll be pumped from the energy of the crowd.  Our MTIs stressed to us that we'd better not scan the crowd, look around (versus straight ahead), and/or wave or do something stupid when we passed our family/loved ones.  It's hard, I know, but try to be discreet if you sneak a peek.  I managed to spot my dad pretty easily on the side lines.  :)

After the Airman's run, you'll march back to your squadron and prepare for Retreat!


Tips for Visitors
Prior to the Airman's Run, inform your families about the color of your squadron shirt, so they can be on the lookout.  If you have a general idea of what side of the flight you'll be on, give your families the heads up if you can.  It'll be easiest for student leaders and the guidon bearer, since their positions are consistent.  If your loved ones make a sign, tell them about Build-A-Sign, where they can get a free, high-quality 3' by 6' vinyl banner.  All you have to do is pay for shipping and any upgrades you may want (such as the grommets, which I recommend).  They're a great company and I've ordered three over the years for various homecomings of DH's. 

[All photos courtesy of J. Boone Pooler Photography.]

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Milbloggies are GO!

Here we go, everyone!  Voting for the Milbloggies has officially begun!  I can't begin to tell you how quick and easy the process is, and voting closes this Friday, April 20th, at 8:00 PM EST.  

You don't have to register for the site, leave your email, none of that stuff!  You don't even have to vote in all of the categories if you don't want to.  

Just check out THIS LINK and make your selections.  Obviously, I would love you to vote for Aim High Erin under the Best U.S. Air Force Blog category!  :)

Thanks again for your continued support of this website and all that I do!

Monday, April 16, 2012

BMT: Retreat

This is it!  Retreat, sometimes known as the "coin ceremony," is when you'll officially become an Airman and receive your Airman's Coin.

Retreat occurs on Thursday morning, after the Airman's Run.  The morning is pretty fast paced.  You'll return to the dorm immediately after completing the Airman's Run.  On this morning, you won't be served a normal breakfast, but you'll get a quick snack.  We had a Gatorade juice box and a granola bar or two.  It's not a lot, but you'll be so amped up at that point that it won't matter.  You're just a few hours away from becoming an Airman and seeing your family!  

After pounding our snack, we went up stairs and immediately ran through the showers and began dressing.  We had previously set out our blues in the day room for easy access and we raced through the entire process, checking each other for perfection.  Hair had been done the night prior, as we had no time that morning.  I often get asked what you'll wear on those days, skirts or pants.  Your MTI makes that decision on Thursday and Friday.  Some MTIs think Parade is (visually) better done in pants, so our original plan was skirts on Thursday, pants on Friday.  We ended up wearing pants both days because the newest member of our flight had lost her skirt when she moved from her previous squadron to ours.  Our MTI did not allow us to wear makeup until Friday, since we weren't technically Airmen at that time.  We really didn't have time for it anyway.

[Source]
Around the time that we were already going crazy running around the dorm, our MTI was pounding on the dorm.  All of the Honor Graduates had to be downstairs to be inspected by a blue rope MTI, our supervisor of drill and ceremony [I'm not entirely sure of his title].  We were heading off to the retreat pad prior to the rest of the flight, to prepare for the HG recognition ceremony that would occur just before retreat.  He examined our uniforms and had us make corrections if necessary.  After that, we marched off to the retreat pad in our small group (there was approximately 10 of us).

Honor grads are lined up and instructed on how to receive the award for the Top Honor Graduate.  This ceremony is held right before Retreat, so all of those present for Retreat will get to view it as well. When the time comes, the HGs march onto the pad in a straight line.  As the names of each HG are read, they take one step forward to be recognized.  The name of the Top HG is read and that individual will march forward to accept their award from the 737th Training Group commander and superintendent.  The HGs file off the pad in the same direction they came in on, and rejoin their flights.

[Source: C. Christeson]
The flights are lined up in numerical order along the street, prepared to march onto the retreat pad, moving forward as flights file in.  A blue rope in charge of drill and ceremony will call each flight in.  Retreat is both a graduation ceremony of sorts, but your flight and your MTI are still being evaluated for how you execute all of the drill movements.  As you approach the turn into the retreat pad, your MTI will request permission from the blue rope to enter the retreat pad.  Each flight files in and immediately begins the ceremony.  Regardless of how many flights are on the pad, you will all conduct retreat individually - it is not done as a huge group.

The Dorm Chief plays an integral role in Retreat, commanding the flight in the beginning, as the MTI picks up the coin tray from the front of the ceremony.  The DC will receive this tray from the MTI and follow him/her throughout the flight as he presents a coin to each trainee.  The guidon bearer is the first to receive a coin and the DC is the last.  The MTI will take a coin from the tray and say a few words to the trainee.  You'll shake with the right hand and take your coin with the left hand.  The MTI will side step down the line, speaking with everyone.  When s/he reaches the end of the element, the element leader will command the element to take one step forward.  This allows the MTI to walk down the next element and repeat the process.  S/he will snake down the elements until everyone receives their coin.  The DC is the last person to receive their coin, after which they hand the tray off to a blue rope waiting nearby, and fall back into the flight.  The flight will either remain standing at attention or be commanding to parade rest, depending on the weather.

[Source: C. Christeson]
After everyone has received their coin, the commander will say some brief words.  You won't even remember them, at least I don't, because you're so pumped at that point.  Finally, the ceremony will come to a close and the families will be invited to come onto the pad and find their new Airman.  This is what many families (especially those active on AF WingMoms) refer to time for the tap out.  You'll stand at attention until your family comes to you and greets/hugs/jumps on you (briefly).  You're not dismissed until someone dismisses you.  [Read more about PDA rules in my post about Reuniting at Graduation.]

Retreat happens really quickly, much faster than I assumed it would.  Blink and it's over!  That being said, if you're at Lackland during the summer it gets hot really quickly out there.  I remember my feet burning in my shoes standing on the concrete for that long.  I had lovely sweat stains for the occasion, since at BMT females don't wear undershirts or camisoles under their blues shirts.  The MTIs are very contentious that this ceremony is notorious for bringing Airmen to their knees - literally.  Trainees faint during Retreat quite frequently, and the blue ropes are prepared to catch people.  We were instructed to take a knee if we thought we felt faint.  So many trainees are so determined to tough it out and look sharp that they lock their knees and pass out.  Definitely not what anyone wants to do as they become an Airman in front of their entire cheering section of friends and family!  You're also instructed to maintain strict military bearing, despite the fact that your loved ones may be steps away from you.  No crying when you spot your family, not even your kids.  You can't react to them, and your MTI will hammer that into you.


Once it's all said and done, you'll be released to your family for base liberty for the duration of the day, up until curfew at 8:00 PM.  You can go [almost] anywhere on base that you'd like, including to base lodging if your family is staying there and you've informed your MTI in advance.

Congratulations and Welcome to the World's Greatest Air Force!

[Yes, that's yours truly in the second and third photos, as well as in the YT video, doing my Dorm Chiefly duties.]

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Milbloggie Announcement and Introduction

Fantastic news this evening, to cap off a long UTA weekend!  Milblogging.com has announced the finalists for the 6th Annual Milbloggies and I am excited to share with I've moved along to this round!  The funny part?  I was even more giddy to see some of my other friends (and blogs that I've read for a while) grab finalist spots as well, including Natalia and John.  Be sure to check out that list of finalists, if only to scope out future blogs to read!  I spotted Feminine Fatigues, a blog I wasn't familiar with, and I'm already eager to dive into it because of it's rich historic content.  With the potential of new readers coming to my site, I figured it was a great time to reintroduce myself!


Hello and welcome to Aim High Erin!

March 2012
My name is Erin and I'm a proud Air Force Reservist.  My journey to military service came later in life, the realization of a dream and a goal for myself.  I've made it, I've achieved, and I'm thriving!  

In my civilian life, I'm a special education math teacher at the high school level.  I've been in the field of special education for eight years now, and I love what I do.  I often hear from others, "Oh, I could never teach high school!"  I love my students, they make the job, which is 100% about relationship building, especially in special education.  My long term goal is to get my Ph.D. and teach either at the collegiate level or be a director of special education for a school district.

I am half of a dual military couple.  My husband (referred to as DH on the blog) is a prior service Marine, Soldier, and now an Airman himself.  I couldn't be prouder of his service and the fact that we are each other's support systems.  He joined the Army a year and a half after we first got together, so I've been with him through numerous separations (training, overseas tours, a deployment, etc).  This blog initially started as a milspouse blog, but evolved as I took on my own military career.  

I spent my summer vacation completing Basic Military Training (BMT) and the Personnel Apprentice Course for the Air Force, making the transformation from civilian to military service member at the age of 30.  I've had more than my fair share of successes and moments of glory, and I look forward to a distinguished career because that's what I intend to make of it.  I believe whole-heartedly in the mission and what I'm doing, even as a junior enlisted member.  I know that my efforts pay off, and that my sacrifices are worth it.  I am always striving for excellence in both my military and civilian careers.

Aim High Erin evolved as I started sharing my stories from BMT and tech school.  As a teacher, sharing my insights came naturally to me.  I want to see others succeed.  That's what I do.  The blog became less about my personal life, although I will do a post of that nature once a week or so, and more about educating those who are considering enlistment in the Air Force or those who already know they're heading off to BMT and want to prepare accordingly.  I understand that your experience and the experiences of others may differ, but I firmly believe that knowledge is power.  I don't claim to know everything, and I will never give you deliberately incorrect information.  I have no problems admitting when I'm stumped - I'm still learning too!  I invite you to read about what I've been through and encourage you to seek out the stories of others.

Thank you for stopping by my area of the blogiverse, I'm happy to have you here!  Don't hesitate to reach out, as that's what the Wingman Concept is all about!

Get Connected

Heading to BMT? - A list of the BMT-specific posts here on the blog, categorized for easy reading.

AHE on Facebook - Notifications of new blog posts, as well as announcements.  Easy way to interact with me or ask a random question that may come up!

@AimHighErinAF on Twitter - Linked to my FB account, my tweets can be both site-related and random, but it still serves as a great way to get a hold of me.

AHE YouTube Channel - Rolling and folding clothes, a sock bun tutorial, and a motivational video.  More to come, as I start dedicating more time to this aspect of the site.

AHE Pinterest - All things Air Force, as well as military resources, charities, and historical items of note.  A visual extension of the site and my list of items to pack.

Monday, April 9, 2012

BMT: The Gas Chamber

During the 4th Week of Training, all of the exciting, hands-on training comes your way.  Look for CBRNe on the calendar.  Why?  In layman's terms, it means you're going to the gas chamber!

CBRNe stands for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and the "e" either stands for explosives or enhanced conventional weapons (IEDs).  The training you receive out there is essential knowledge prior to BEAST, as you'll learn how to properly don and doff Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear (also known as chem gear).  

You'll board the bus to the CBRNe training site with your sister/brother flight, wearing PT gear, carrying your trainer weapon, donning your "spidey glasses" (gas mask inserts, for those who wear glasses) and carrying your duffle bag with your ABUs inside.  That morning our MTI stressed not to eat or drink any food items containing dairy products for breakfast.  Supposedly dairy products were likely to increase your chances of experiencing nausea after you emerge from the gas chamber.  I trusted him, so we stayed away from all of it!

[Source: Basic Video Productions]
When we arrived, we stored our weapons and began moving through the first building where we were issued all of our chemical gear.  Your gear, which you will leave there after the exercises, consists of rubber overshoes, a hooded jacket, a pair of pants, glove liners, rubber gloves, and your gas mask (in its carrier).  The gas mask is the only thing that you'll take back to the squadron with you.
You'll head under a large covered shelter, where you'll sit in flight formation with your dorm chief up front.  You'll be given instructions in how to properly don your chem gear, where all of the closures are on the suit, and how to don/doff your gas mask.  After that, you'll be taught how to do buddy checks, which are exactly what they sound like.  After you put on your own gear, you'll check your wingman's gear, assisting them with their mask in particular.  You'll learn about MOPP levels, which indicate how much gear you need to have on at that particular time, and the various alarm colors (green, yellow, red, black) and what to do in each instance.

Source: [Basic Video Productions]
Finally, once you've learned how to properly wear all of your gear and have ensured that there's a good seal with your gas mask, you'll prepare to enter the gas chamber!  You'll line up in rows, advancing when the instructors tell you to do so.  You'll file into the room and line up around the walls, facing the center.  You'll see the gas start to seep out of a structure in the center.  The instructor will have you go through a series of head movements, which are designed to check the seal on your mask again, or so I've been told.  As the time passed, I could feel my hairline starting to burn, around the edges of my mask.  One at a time, you'll be told to remove your mask give your reporting statement, and walk out of the door.  If you ran, you'd have to go back.  Most trainees mumbled or raced through their statements as quickly as possible, then walked briskly out of the room as fast as they could.

Once outside, you had to hold your arms out in a T and walk back to your belongings.  You were not to touch your face, just to keep blinking so that your tears would clear them out.  All I wanted to do was keep my eyes tightly closed at that point, but I tried to blink as best as I could.  Some trainees throw up after leaving the chamber or their noses run out, but we didn't have too many issues with that, at least none that I saw.  Back at your duffle, you'd remove your chem gear.  There were also large sinks outside to wash your hands and face.  You put your ABUs back on (over your PT gear, if I remember) and prepared for more training!  Ladies, this is also when you put your hair back up in a bun, since it has to be down while you're wearing the gas mask.

CBRNe training is also the first time you'll have an MRE for lunch.  At this point, it's novel and exciting.  You won't be given long to eat lunch on the bleaches under the covered area, but everyone will race through their food, sharing items, and hoping for candy.  Yes, candy.  It'll be the first time you've have junk food in weeks!  The excitement over MREs will die once you finish up BEAST, since you'll eat them every day for breakfast and lunch.  It gets old, trust me.

The remainder of the day is spent reviewing the Airman's Manual (AFPAM 10-100) and learning about IEDs - how you can spot them, the different types, etc.  They have a display of various types of IEDs and a broken down vehicle on display, so you can look for various IED "giveaways."  The end of the day was spent on an IED trail where we applied our knowledge and tried to spot IEDs alongside the edge of the road.

CBRNe training is an essential part of your education at BMT.  It is a required training in order for you to go to BEAST, so if you miss it (due to a doctor's appointment) your MTI will have to reschedule you for another training with another squadron.  Try not to miss any of your required classes, as they'll just put you further and further behind, and jeopardize your timely graduation.

Don't be too worried about the gas chamber, as it's over in a matter of minutes and the percentage of gas in comparison to a real chemical weapon is miniscule.  Mull that one over for a bit on the ride back to the squadron!

[Yes, these photos were from my flight's trip to the gas chamber, although I'm not pictured in any of them.]

Miscellany Monday

Miscellany Monday @
lowercase letters Happy Monday everyone!  I'm not usually overjoyed about a Monday, but this has been a fantastic day!  Share time!

Branch #3, it's official!
1.  It finally happened!  I got the phone call that DH would be swearing in this afternoon!  If you've been following my story of frustration, DH has been trying to switch from the Army Reserve to the Air Force Reserve for months now.  His most recent hang-ups were due to issues at MEPS.  He made multiple trips up to Denver, and ended up doing a stress test (running on the treadmill while hooked up to sensors), which resulted in the verdict of - gasp - he's healthy and everything's fine.  The final waiver took a week after that, which brought us to today!  It is such a relief to know that we've finally made it through this process.  This is DH's third branch of service; he truly is my Military Renaissance Man!  [Yes, we seriously talk/joke about him doing every branch.]

2.  Although DH did WLC [Warrior Leadership Course] while he was in the Army, they told him that he would have to do ALS [Airmen Leader School] now that he's in the AF.  I joked that we could attend together!  Think about how much sense that would make - one room, one mileage reimbursement, etc, for two people!  Makes perfect sense to me!  :)  He says he doesn't want to wait that long for my eligibility though - party pooper.    

3.  I have a busy, busy week ahead of me at school, with no rest this weekend since it's UTA time again.  A couple IEPs to write, a Consumer Math curriculum to research, and a DVR to catch up on.  A girl's got priorities, folks!

4.  I haven't done a formal blog post about it, but I'm 40 days away from running my first half marathon.  I need to kick my training up a notch.  I haven't done nearly as many long runs as I need to be doing.  I'm pretty sure I can pull it off, but I don't know how pretty it's going to be in my current state.  Meanwhile, that officer pictured above with DH?  Yeah, he's about to do his second Boston Marathon.  Talk about "Excellence In All We Do!"

5.  Nominations for Milbloggies opened up this evening and a number of you have already thrown my name in the hat.  Thank you all so much for your vote of confidence and your support of my blog.  That's why I keep doing what I do, because I know there are people that value and appreciate this information!  Only one nomination is needed, so if you venture over there, consider giving the existing nominations a thumbs up!  Peek through the rest of the nominations - it's a great way to find new blogs to read!   

Milblogging.com and Milbloggies!

Big day today, readers!  Today marks the opening of the nominations for the Milbloggies, hosted by the folks over at Milblogging.com.  Nominations open on Monday the 9th and run through Thursday the 12th.  Finalists will be announced on the 15th, and voting will run the 17th through the 20th.  The winner is announced at the MilBlogCon, which is held in DC the weekend of May 11th - 12th.

Why is this important, aside from the obvious bragging rights?  Milblogging.com is a respected site and database for military blogs.  It's a cool site if you haven't been on it already.  If you like reading milblogs, you can find tons on this site, organized by branch of service, military status, location, etc.  You can read posts within the site, or choose to go directly to their sites.  Each site, like mine, has a profile.  You can mark them as a favorite or even write a review.  [If you're a member, why not favorite me while you're at it?]

Anyway, I'm hoping for a good showing for AHE this year!  I would love to at least be a finalist in the Best U.S. Air Force Blog category, to help give the site some publicity and connect other potential trainees to everything that I have to offer here.  It only takes one nomination to be considered, and they are requesting that you link to the profile page (like my About AHE page).

If this website has been helpful to you, please consider nominating me!  I'll keep you posted on the happenings with the Milbloggies!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

BMT: Murphy's Law

Military families are no stranger to Murphy's Law.  I was a military spouse before I became a service member, so I was used to the idea that things go to hell when your service member leaves.  As soon as they leave, the car breaks down, major appliances stop working, pipes burst, etc.  Of course, it happens all at once, so you'd better have a level head and a good support system in place.

Just when I thought this sort of thing only happened when my husband was away, I got a little reminder that Murphy doesn't discriminate when it comes to gender...

Here I was, on the phone with DH during one of my weekly fifteen minute calls.  I'm not sure how he dropped the bomb, but he told me that - no lie - our house had been struck by lightening and there had been a fire.  No one was hurt, DH and his daughter were driving back from California, and FIL wasn't in the house at the time.  Check out that link and video, I'm not joking!  This is the stuff that drinking stories are made of!

I'm a control freak, so you can imagine what my thoughts were at the time.  My husband was without me at home, managing the post-catastrophe clean-up and insurance process without me.  At BMT, you won't have the time or the power to manage your at-home affairs.  They're out of your hands, and you have trust and put faith in your spouse/family/loved one(s).  Hopefully you've put plans in place before you left, so you minimize your worries.  Your first priority must be the task at hand - focusing on your training and graduating.  Murphy's always going to be lingering around in the shadows - prepare for the worst, hope for the best!

Friday, April 6, 2012

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In #70

Time for a blog of a more personal note, with MFF!  If you're a military significant other, check out Wifey's to get in on the action.

1.  What's the one thing in the past month you would have changed?  DH would have sworn into the USAFR already.  I don't talk too much about it on here, but he's in the process of switching branches from the Army Reserve to the AF Reserve.  My recruiting period went pretty smoothly.  With him, we've had nothing but hold-ups, roadblocks, and other frustrating moments.  He's not nearly as patient as me, and he's getting close to being at the end of his rope.  This has been nightmarish and could've been handled better.  I'm afraid he's going to walk away soon and give up, which I hate to think about.  Couple all of that with the fact that he's missed work to handle this nonsense, and you can imagine the stressors on us as a family, both financially and emotionally.  Doesn't make for a happy home environment.

2.  What was your favorite thing that happened in March?  Probably spring break, even though I was on orders.  I was able to be super productive in terms of my education and training, and I learned that I'm half a year away from having my CCAF degree!  Selling my bike, albeit emotional, was also a good thing for our finances.  Putting a contract in on a short sale home was a step towards where I'd like to be in my adult life.  Crossing our fingers for good things!

3.  Check your phone...who was the last person you called and what is your favorite thing about them? Actually, the last person I called was a student, to check up on her and see if she was disenrolling today.  My favorite part about her is her positive attitude and enthusiasm.  She's a California girl too, so we had that in common.  I'm going to miss her now that she's no longer in my class, and I wish her the best!

4.  If you were a crayon, what color would you be and why?  I love this question as a "getting to know you" question!  I used to ask it of students all the time.  As much as I don't want to choose one of my favorite colors, I'm going to!  I would be chartreuse - it's a loud, bright green, with warmth, just like my personality!  :)  It commands attention.  Plus, it's not easy being green, and I can relate to that.

5.  What are you looking forward to in April?  I'd like to say DH swearing in, but I can't say that with any confidence right now.  =/  I'm not looking forward to anything in particular this month, sadly.  I'm looking forward to this month being over with because I have so much more to look forward to in May!  In May we're going on vacation, I'm running in a half marathon, school ends, and I'm starting seasoning training.  Game on!      

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

BMT: Glasses

I started wearing glasses back in the 6th grade, and I've been in contacts just as long.  In the latter years, I'd given up on glasses, as I preferred my contacts.  Plus, my insurance only paid for one or the other.  There was no option to do both and I couldn't afford both out of my own pocket.  My prescription never changed all that much, so I just put up with an incorrect script, since I was just wearing them before bed or around the house.

Prior to leaving for BMT, I received the "Non-Prior Service Information Guide," dated December 2008, from my [Reserve] recruiter, that contained the following information about glasses:

5.8.4.2  If you wear eyeglasses be sure to bring them with you.  Although you will be issued the standard military glasses, it takes a few days to fabricate them and provide the eyewear.  Therefore, in order to prevent being "set back"; please bring your prescription eyeglasses.  (If you wear contact lenses DO NOT bring them to basic training, wear your eyeglasses.)

After reading that, I knew I was going to have to bite the bullet and update my glasses.  I probably paid upwards of $100, and that was just to get new lenses - no special coating, no fancy material, nothing.  I paid out the nose and got an inferior product than I'd had before.  

You'll wear your civilian glasses at BMT for the first three weeks, until your issued glasses arrive.  With the military's plans to phase out the BCGs (Birth Control Glasses), I can't tell you with certainty what you'll receive now.  Me, I ended up with this sexy pair of industrial strength frames, complete with a black elastic strap.  Contain yourselves, readers.

You'll also receive a "Frame of Choice," to wear with your blues.  You'll select these eyeglasses frames from a poster board with deceiving images of your future specs.  Nope, you won't be trying these babies on, so it's a crapshoot as to whether or not they'll look good on you.  [You can knock my BCGs all you want, but I prefer them to my frame of choice, which has a much narrower field of vision and slides off my face.]

When you graduate and go off to tech school, you've got options again, and don't have to stick with the BCGs or the frame of choice.  You do have to follow regulations however.  AFI 36-2903 states:

6.3.2.1.  Eyeglasses and sunglasses may have conservative ornamentation on non- prescription sunglasses or eyeglasses, frames may be black or brown material or gold or silver wire.  Brand name glasses may be worn with small logo on frames or lenses.  Logo must be same color as frames or lenses.  Conservative wrap-around sunglasses may be worn.  Conservative, clear, slightly tinted or photosensitive lenses are authorized.  Faddish styles and mirrored lenses are prohibited.

Before I left for BMT, I never even considered buying glasses online.  What was I thinking?!  I do everything else online, why not glasses too?  Instead, I overpayed in the effort to get my glasses ready for training.  Don't make my mistake - you've got options!

GlassesUSA.com offers affordable, high-quality lenses and frames, with intuitive search options and tons of options for complete frame and lens packages for under $100.  Unlike at BMT, you can use their Virtual Mirror function to upload a picture of yourself to "try" on glasses and see what works best for you before you buy.  The savings is even better right now - take 50% off your first pair of prescription eyeglasses with code EASTERSAVINGS.  After that, use code Blog10 to take 10% off any order of prescription eyeglasses.  You just can't beat the savings and the ease of use.  I love the vintage-inspired section!
Ready to see what you'd look like with a new pair of glasses?  Check out the Virtual Mirror for yourself!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Miscellany Monday

 Time for a "What I Did On My Spring Break" edition of Miscellany Monday!  This spring break, I...

Miscellany Monday @
lowercase letters1.  ...took three tests.  I took the Accuplacer in math to determine what classes I could be placed into at the local community college.  Did really well, then found out a few days later that my credits had been analyzed again and I didn't need any math credits after all.  I took the DSST in Speech and Public Speaking, and I feel like I did okay (for never having taken a speech class).  The recorded portion was really awkward, although I felt like I finished stronger than I started.  Lastly, I took the College Algebra CLEP, which wasn't necessary after that last analysis, but I passed and will receive three credits for my Technical Elective portion of my CCAF!  That's the point of all of this hard work - my CCAF.  With this most recent analysis, I've figured out that I could have my CCAF degree by September, which would be awesome.

2.  ...sold Henry, my 2007 Harley-Davidson Street Bob.  I bought this bike new back in 2007, when I fell in love with it at the dealer.  Riding got me through my prolonged (military) separation with my husband, as I kept involved with the Patriot Guard and HOG.  Ultimately, I have to remember that it's the people and the experiences that I'm attached to, versus the item itself.  That's what means the most to me.  I haven't ridden over a year, for various reasons, and DH had already sold his bike while I was gone.  We're focusing our priorities on paying down/off debt, buying a house, etc.  This is not the end of my riding career - I will own another, bigger bike one day!  Definitely when we're in Texas!  ;)  I am pleased with the buyer I found, who's equally as passionate about the bike as I was/am.  Couldn't have asked for a better selling/buying situation.

3.  ...spent most of my duty days at the Force Support Squadron (FSS), which was fantastic.  It's good to be in my personnel element, learning from those with more experience and skill, and getting to use my skills.  I'll be doing my seasoning training with these folks, so it's important for me to become a part of that team.  By the end of the week, I had a great number of my checklist signed off, and I'm that much closer to my 5 skill level.  The rest should be in the bag after this summer.  Time in training is what everything will hinge on in the end, and that's why I mentioned September earlier.  I can't get my CCAF until I hit my 5 level, and I'm being told that I need to be out of tech school for a year in order to have enough time in training.  C'mon September, it's going to be a great month!            

4.  ...got all sorts of quality time in with my wingman!  I went through tech school with her, where she was a couple weeks behind me.  I didn't find out until my graduation day that she was in my same unit. I wish my 19 year old self had it together like she does, in terms of her self-sufficiency, her independence, and her ambition.  I introduced her to the Airplane Restaurant, she introduced me to McDonald's cookies.  We're both doing seasoning training over the summer, so many more memories to be made!

5.  ...put a contract in on a short sale.  We're not really in the home-buying market right now, since we're looking to relocate in a couple of years, but an investment came our way that we just couldn't let pass by.  Being a short sale, it's a long shot, so I'm not holding my breath.  It could take months to go through, if it even gets that far.  If it happens, it happens, if it doesn't, it doesn't.  It's in a neighborhood that I really like on a half an acre - beautiful views, great curb appeal.  Only time will tell!  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

BMT: Duties and Details, Part 4

Seems I'd forgotten some of the duties and details that you can do at BMT!  There's so much to be done while you're down there, forgive me.  If you're just joining me, check out Part 1 (bed alignment, shoe alignment, End of Bed Display), Part 2 (Fire Monitor, Utility Crew, Day Room Crew, and Hallway/Chome Crew), and Part 3 (Academic Monitor, PT Monitor, Water Monitor, and Electrician).  There are single posts dedicated to some of the jobs with great responsibility loads; you can find these posts on the main BMT page.  On with Part 4 of our Duties and Details series!

Chapel Guide
The Chapel Guide is the only other position besides the Dorm Chief and the Element leaders that gets to wear a blue plastic badge that identifies them as a Chapel Guide.  They will wear this badge only on Sundays when they are doing their duties, and at no other time.  Our flight had three Chapel Guides, although we only had two badges to go around.

You don't have to be particularly religious to be a Chapel Guide, although it doesn't hurt and our Chapel Guides tended to have a strong faith background.  Chapel Guides march younger flights ("baby flights") from the squadron to their respective services.  It's typically those in 0WOT that get marched to their service, maybe 1WOT.  After that, you'll march yourself to church, in small elements of four trainees, to eliminate the need for road guards along the way.

Chapel Guides were up the earliest on Sundays, falling out of the dorm promptly at 0545 at the sound of Reveille to eat breakfast first and head to chapel.  They would return back to the dorm by 1600 at the very latest.  

Once at church, Chapel Guides ensured that other trainees didn't fall asleep during the service.  The atmosphere was very relaxing for our Chapel Guides, and they got to talk with older trainees and learn about the events and activities in the upcoming weeks of training.  My Chapel Guides were excited to see the older Chapel Guides graduate, which kept them motivated.  For lunch, they would either march back to our squadron or eat at the nearest squadron to the service they were attending.

Chapel Guides assist at services that don't conflict with the ones they personally attended, so you're able to do your duty and worship at the same time.

Road Guards
Road guarding is one of the most challenging duties/details out there, in terms of physical demand.  There are four road guards for every flight.  They march in the back of the flight, wearing a reflective vest, and if it's during the hours of darkness, use a flashlight as well.  Road guards are used when the flight is marching outside of the squadron.  If you're inside of the squadron, you'll march in the back but you won't have to do your duties.  If the flight is crossing a street, the road guards will run out from behind the flight and block oncoming traffic, holding their palm up.  As soon as the flight goes by, the road guards will fall back in, or leap frog forward to block the next street.  

The job sounds pretty straightforward, but you're going to be hustling like nobody's business.  Our road guards got yelled at a lot during the first few weeks, for doing their job wrong, for not running out at the right time, for not standing in the appropriate place, etc.  In the San Antonio summer heat, the job wore you out quickly.  If you think you may need some extra physical conditioning, you might consider volunteering for the job, since you'll definitely get a workout!  Your MTI may choose taller/bigger trainees for the sake of visibility.

Road guards have to carry their vests and be ready to fall out pretty much all of the time.  The pouches on the web canteen belt make transporting the vests a lot easier than when we didn't have them.  There has to be four road guards at all times, so if someone is missing (due to illness, an appointment), an alternative needs to be found before your MTI catches wind of the loss.  Be proactive and find someone to do it - don't make him/her find someone.

Pad Crew
The Pad Crew cleans the pads in the squadron.  The pads are the areas right outside of the dorm stairwells and chow halls, which are covered by the overhang.  On the concrete pad there are a number of painted dots to help element leaders line up.  The pad crew will use push brooms to keep the pads tidy and pick up trash.  Pretty straightforward job!  Our road guards were designated as the pad crew, so when the flight did their details in the dorm, they'd go downstairs to clean the pad.