Thursday, May 31, 2012

In Your Shoes

From this...
See that smiling girl, with the makeup-free face, pulled-back hair, and red identification bracelet [to spot friends from my FB May Shippers group]?  The one sporting glasses during the daytime?  That's me of course, in my last few hours of civilian freedom.

On 31 May 2011, my days of anticipation and preparation were over.  My duffle bag was packed, my affairs were in order, and all I had to do was out-process at my unit and be on my way.

It's been a year since I left for Basic Military Training.  When I left, I had the same anxiety, fears, eagerness, and optimism that you have as you await BMT.  I was ready to start my new life already.  I had been in the Delayed Entry Program for four months, the school year had come to a close, and I was ready.  Well, as ready as I'd ever be!

Just like you, I had my fair share of supporters/encouragers, as well as nay-sayers.  At the age of thirty, I'm sure that some people may have thought my ship had sailed, or questioned why I was doing this after I'd already been teaching for five years.  Those with few connections to the military may not have "gotten it," why I had enlisted.  Why now?  To that I say, why not?  It went as far as hearing that someone had stated, "You know, we all think she's crazy."

For as many negative reactions, I got the same number of positive supporters.  I had co-workers, friends, and family that were proud of me for making that selfless commitment to our country.  They cheered me on as I tackled a running regime, sent me notes and gifts of encouragement, and followed this blog while close friends posted updates.  My immediate family, my closest friends, they gave me the support and love that I needed on this journey.  As much as their backing is appreciated, it's not the most important factor to your success at BMT.

...to this!
It boils down to you.  Do you believe in yourself?  Are you motivated to succeed?  If so, are you willing to push yourself past comfort levels?  Are you willing to put up with MTIs trying to break you with put-downs?  I was yelled at early on for talking, told I looked awkward, had my leadership abilities questions, and threatened that I'd be recycled and sent home.  When I was told by the MTIs that BMT would be the toughest challenge of my life, I blew it off.  They weren't joking.  Whether or not it actually is for you is one thing, but it was significantly harder than I expected.  Your age, your education, your job experience, your leadership experience - it doesn't matter.  It's your strength of character that counts.  Do you have it in you?  Are you ready to earn the title of American Airman?

BMT changed me, as it will change you.  [Don't worry, I didn't lose my smile, as the photos may suggest!]  Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do.  My life has become infused with those Core Values.  All of those positive qualities that I possessed before BMT shine a little brighter as a result of my journey.  A strong sense of self-worth, pride in one's accomplishment, confidence in one's abilities.  I watched the other females in my flight grow as leaders and as wingmen.  Teamwork and shared experience gave me a new crop of life-long friends.  I beamed, watching them stand tall and proud as I helped my MTI pass out Airman's Coins on our graduation day.  Where trembling trainees had stood on 31 May 2011, now there were Airmen - Warrior Airmen.

I've been in your shoes.  I wondered how I was going to survive long, hot summer days in San Antonio.  I feared being recycled.  I worried about being fired as a Dorm Chief and about whether I'd be able to do enough pushups for my PT test.  I kept my fingers crossed that I wouldn't become so sick that I'd be sent to the "fever flight."  I shed the occasional tear, like everyone else - when I was being blasted by a particularly intimidating MTI, when I failed myself on the shooting range.  
I always bounced back.  I wasn't letting anyone stop me, dissuade me, from achieving my goal, my dream.  In those weak moments, remember:  I've been in your shoes.  We've been in your shoes.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Motivation Through Memory

One year ago on this calendar day, I was enjoying my last moments of freedom as a civilian.  On the Tuesday following I would begin out-processing at Peterson Air Force Base and prepare to embark on my own journey of military service.  Eight and a half weeks later, I would reaffirm my commitment to our nation and take the oath of enlistment, this time as an Airman First Class, no longer a civilian.

While I am proud to serve my country and of my brothers and sisters in arms, today is not about us.  Today is about those who've gone before us and who've made the ultimate sacrifice.

Back in early 2008, I purchased my first motorcycle.  I had always been inspired by the mission of the Patriot Guard Riders, and I knew that when I felt comfortable riding that I wanted to participate.  When invited by the families of the fallen, the PGR will attend and honor service members along every step of their final homecoming.  They establish flag lines at the airport for their arrival, escort the coach whenever it is transporting our fallen hero, and again establish a flag line at the chapel and/or final resting place.  I've had the honor of being present at countless memorials for true American heroes, some of whom only received their citizenship posthumously.  I didn't know these individuals on a personal level, but I saw in the faces and tears of their loved ones the lives that they'd impacted, in life and death.

Through the Patriot Guard, I had the opportunity to meet and learn about the experiences of other veterans, including many who fought in Vietnam.  I learned little about the Vietnam War in my schooling - The Things They Carried wasn't read at my school, as it is in the one I teach in now.  The Patriot Guard provided me the education I missed, but with tangible legacies and raw emotions.

It seemed fitting that my last day as a civilian was Memorial Day 2011.  For me there was no better way to honor the fallen than by taking a stand myself, and enlisting in the military.  The memory of all of those who've made the ultimate sacrifice, the legacies left by family and friends, all of these factors motivated and inspired me to finally make that commitment for myself.

On this Memorial Day, I encourage you to take a few moments out of your day, if nothing else, and remember those who've sacrificed their tomorrows to preserve our todays.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

BMT: Chapel Services

Keep the Faith at BMT

The folks that BMT understand that it's a stressful, challenging experience and environment.  Contrary to popular belief when you're down there, they actually want you to be successful and do well in the Air Force!  Think about it - it's fiscally unwise to send people down there if they're not going to be up for it or if they don't have what it takes.  As my MTI used to say, their first priority is your safety and well-being.

All of that being said, they recognize that faith can be a powerful motivator and coping mechanism for trainees during this time.  BMT offers one of the widest varieties of chapel services, exclusively for trainees.  In fact, the only time anyone else is permitted to attend is during graduation weekend, when your family may accompany you.  Otherwise, you won't see permanent party Airmen (other than chaplains assigned there or tech schoolers serving as chapel guides) there at the service.  Once you get to your first duty station, you won't see this sort of variety, as you'll be able to go off-base to meet your faith needs.

Available Services

Per the BMT Factsheets, the following services are available:
  • Protestant (e.g. Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.) 
  • Liturgical Protestant (e.g. Episcopal, Lutheran, Congregational, etc.) 
  • Catholic 
  • Jewish 
  • Eastern Orthodox 
  • Muslim 
  • Pentecostal 
  • Seventh-Day Adventist 
  • Church of Christ 
  • Christian Science 
  • Latter-day Saints 
  • Eckankar 
  • Wicca 
  • Baha'i 
  • Buddhist 
  • Hindu 
Additional Services and Supports

I don't know about you, but I hadn't even heard of Eckankar before BMT!  During 0WOT, prior to that first Sunday, your MTI will march you over to the main chapel where you'll sit through a chapel briefing that explains your options and their services.  If you don't see your preferred faith/service, you can ask your MTI to put you in touch with the Chaplain so that they can connect with you and try to meet your needs.  During this brief, small groups will break off so that you may meet the worship leaders of your service and learn the location and times for your service.  When military chaplains are not available, civilian leaders are brought in from the community to lead your service.

Chaplains are also available for counseling services, if you're having a particularly challenging time while at BMT.  These services may or may not discuss your religious faith, so don't be concerned if you're not particularly religious.  If you're feeling distressed beyond the norm or if you're feeling suicidal [I say this because it happens], reach out to a Chaplain so that you can get the help you need.

Attending Services

Trainees are allowed to go to two services a Sunday, to include a service and a religious education class.  If you're Christian, this normally takes the form of a bible study.  You can go to just the service, if you'd like.  Your MTI will provide you with a roster every week, prior to Sunday.  You'll sign up for the service(s) that you want to attend, indicate a departure time from the dorm, and initial when you return.  If so inclined, you may choose to attend a different service every week.

Services vary in terms of starting time.  I remember the LDS service being somewhat later in the day than others.  Most of the Christian and Catholic services are in the morning.  The Contemporary Christian service is the most popular service, and as a result of the large(r) crowd, only two squadrons attend at a time.  Each pair of squadrons has a different start time, one right after the other.

Getting to Chapel

During 0WOT, you'll be marched to chapel by older [well, more advanced in training] trainees in your squadron, who'll come to your dorm and pick you up.  You'll stick out like a sore thumb on that first trip to chapel, since you won't be wearing your boots with your ABUs yet.  "Sneaker weekers," they'll call you!  If I recall correctly, they'll march you again in 1WOT, but by 2WOT, you're on your own!  Remember your military bearing while marching to chapel.  While your MTI won't accompany you, there are MTIs that linger in the roadways to make sure no one is fooling around.  Once you start marching yourself, you can leave as needed to get to your service.  My flight members liked arriving to the Contemporary service early so they could get seats up front and enjoy all of the music videos that they played before the service started.

Chapel Expectations

Each chapel service is different in its expectations of trainees.  I only attended the Contemporary service, so that's the only one I can report on.  At the contemporary service, you could do some mixed-gender socializing while you were waiting to go inside the chapel, but once inside you were segregated by gender.  Flights tended to sit together, as everyone files in line to the pews.  Many enjoyed this service because it gave them the opportunity to be emotional - to openly cry, to sing, to move/dance a little, without being reprimanded.  If trainees got too rowdy with the dancing, they were asked to tone it down.  Praising was fine, dancing for the sake of dancing was not.  Sleeping in the Contemporary service wasn't tolerated either, and while the Chaplain wasn't mean about it, they cautioned that they'd have to pull a 341 if you fell asleep.  Trainees were responsible for keeping their wingmen awake during the service, and drinking water was encouraged as a strategy.  Letter writing is not acceptable during chapel.  The Contemporary service has a praise band comprised largely of civilians that is really talented.

As for the other faiths, I've heard a variety of stories.  I've heard rumors of services where trainees got to take off their boots, converse openly with trainees of the opposite gender while in chapel, eat candy, etc.  As with anything else in BMT, your experience may vary!

What If I Don't Go?

If you are not religiously inclined and don't care to attend a service, fear not.  Many choose to attend just to get out of the dorm/squadron and have a cathartic emotional experience, but staying behind isn't as bad as they'd lead you to believe.  Your MTI will have reduced hours on Sundays, especially as you progress in training.  Eventually, ours wouldn't show up until 1300 or so.  Fear not, there are chores to be done while he/she's gone!

On Sunday mornings, you'll get to sleep in until 0545, instead of 0445.  Once the chow hall opens at 0600, your chow runner can report the flight for breakfast.  After breakfast, you'll begin dust down and your deep details.  Trainees attending services will filter out of the dorm, as needed.  Trainees remaining behind will continue to work EC (as trainees come back from meals and services) and check items off the deep detail list as they are completed.  Deep details include things like dusting inside and outside of the weapons cases, dusting the exterior of the flight office, detail cleaning the empty wall lockers, etc.  Normally by lunch time, most everyone has returned.

Do not fool yourself into thinking that if you stay behind during services that you'll get to sneak in a nap or write letters.  Letter writing is limited to personal time.  If you do finish all of the deep details to perfection, studying the BMTSG is always an option, as is rolling and folding in your personal area.  I also used that time to distribute laundry.

Religious Material

Yes!  You can bring a bible, prayer book, devotional, and/or another piece of religious text with you to BMT.  These are the only authorized books in the training environment, aside from your BMTSG.  You can rest assured that you will not be criticized or judged by your MTI for having these materials with you.  Keep in mind that these must be stored in the back of your security drawer, which is limited in space.  If you can find a smaller version of your desired text, that would be ideal.  This is not the time to break out the large family bible and take it along.  These books can be utilized during personal time [typically at the end of the night], during chapel, and during your religious education class.

Yes!  You are allowed to wear a religious necklace or pendant to BMT.  Aside from wedding rings [not engagement rings], these are the only authorized pieces of jewelry that you can wear at BMT.  Remember that BMT is a rough and non-forgiving environment.  I would be hesitant about bringing anything that is sentimental to you or that may be a family heirloom.  If you would like to wear a religious necklace that can withstand the abuse that BMT will dish out, most clothing sales stores on military installations sell GI Jewelry, which is designed to meet military specifications as well.

Baptism

If you've never been baptized and are interested in becoming baptized while at BMT, you're in luck!  They offer that service, at least in the Contemporary chapel services.  The chaplains will give you information on which day you can attend an informational meeting/class, and which day you can be baptized.  These events are held in the afternoon on Sundays, after the Contemporary services are finished.  When I was at BMT, they typically held one of each type of event a month, so the class would be held on one Sunday of the month and baptisms were conducted on another Sunday of the month.  Trainees being baptized had to bring their PT clothes and a towel to chapel that day, so I'm assuming that it's more than just a sprinkling of holy water, although I'm not sure.

Any other questions?  Just leave a comment if I haven't addressed something that you'd like to know about chapel! 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Miscellany Monday

miscellany monday at
lowercase letters This is it!  The last week of the school year!  This Miscellany Monday is my last Monday at school - can't tell you how exciting that is!  Smooth sailing from here, folks, with just one more day of reviews and three days of finals!  I can do this!

1.  This weekend was the Colfax Marathon - my first half marathon and one of my goals for 2012!  I was really nervous going into it because I'd been neglecting my training with my work schedule and I can feel myself getting "soft."  Ay, here goes nothing!  We were able to enjoy a fabulous weekend up in Denver at a really nice hotel as a part of the package, so I got to sneak in a little bit of shopping (more of the window variety than not). 

My finisher's medal for the Colfax Half.
I'm proud to say that I achieved all of the goals I set for myself!  I ran the entire thing non-stop (slowing if needed, but never walking), making it the furthest I've run to date.  My original projected finish time was 2:15, but I knew that would be my ideal based on the training.  I wanted to shoot for 2:30, but definitely under 3 hours.  I was ecstatic to sprint to a finish of 2:19:58!  I'm very pleased with myself and my performance, although I can feel every ounce of effort today in sore muscles and chafed thighs.

Fun moments included running into the parents of one of my students and finally meeting a Twitter friend of mine (and fellow AF Reservist).  I feel confident signing up for a half marathon again, after doing so well in my first, although my ultimate goal is running the Air Force Marathon in 2013 with my dad.

2.  Perhaps you've spied my official 2012 Milbloggie badge over to the side?  Yes, it arrived via email this weekend.  Again, THANK YOU to the best readers ever!

3.  DH and I are meeting up with an MTI friend of mine on Wednesday for a group dinner and I'm beyond excited.  First time seeing him since I've become operational, so I'm looking forward to having a normal conversation that doesn't require a reporting statement or me being at attention. 

4. DH started his AT (annual tour/training) this week on base, which is a relief for us as his civilian job hasn't been reliable lately.  I'll be joining him a week from tomorrow!  I'm eager to begin seasoning training with my wingman and learn all of the functions of my job as a Personnelist.

5.  Shout-outs to my FB BMT groups, with whom I have the occasional ooVoo chat!  Reminds me of my old days in DEP and ooVooing for hours with my group.  I love connecting with my readers!  [If you have a ship date and you haven't yet, go search "BMT Your-Month-Here 2012" and link up with others leaving in your month].  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

BMT: Individual Evaluations

During the 7WOT, you'll participate in a series of short, performance-based evaluations with your MTI to measure individual drill as well as your military bearing and courtesies.  Due to the brevity of these evaluations, I'm combining them into this single post.  These assessments are graded on a pass/fail basis.  If you make more than a specified number of errors, you'll fail the evaluation.  In my experience, trainees who failed were allowed to re-test with our MTI.  If you fail twice with your MTI, you may have the opportunity to re-test for your section supervisor.  Don't fail for them, or else you'll run the risk of receiving an Unsatisfactory (U) for the week of training, or worse yet, potentially being recycled.  Definitely not something you want to be facing in your 7WOT, right before graduation.  Unless you stress yourself out, most everyone should pass, as you'll practice these skills for weeks.  Remember that your experience may differ slightly, based upon your squadron or MTI's policies.

If you are hoping to be an Honor Grad, please note that you must pass all of these evaluations.  

Individual Drill - This evaluation measures your ability to successfully execute a number of basic drill movements that you'll begin learning almost as soon as you arrive at BMT.  This evaluation is conducted by your MTI, and while it's an individual evaluation, your MTI may (as mine did) assess you in small groups.  Our assessment was held on the pad underneath the overhang, four trainees at a time.  The rest of the flight was lined up around the pad, along the edge.  In roster number order, we were called to the center of the pad, where our MTI gave a number of drill commands that we had to execute.  These commands included Right Face, Left Face, About Face, Attention, At Ease, Parade Rest, Present Arms, Order Arms, and so forth.  While we performed these movements, our MTI walked around the group, verifying if they'd been correctly executed.  He checked to see if our heels were in line and touching, if our arms were pinned to our sides, if our salutes were at the proper point of contact, etc.  As with anything else at BMT, if you make a mistake do not let it show on your face or in your body language.  Secondary movements (self-correcting your body or wavering in your stance) will count as errors and potentially draw more attention to your mistake.  Your MTI makes verbal corrections as he/she walks around.  Respond to them appropriately, without looking at your body as you make the adjustments.  Our MTI dismissed us to head up to the dorm if we'd passed the evaluation, but held back those who'd failed. 

Reporting to an Office - Your MTI will instruct and assess you on the formal procedures for reporting to the office of your commander, once you've entered the operational Air Force.  This skill was demonstrated for us a couple times, we practiced it out in the hallway, and then we did our evaluation (individually).  This was not something we trained for at length, but you'll get a decent amount of experience doing something similar when you report to your MTI in the Flight Office.  Our MTI used the day room for this evaluation.  He sat at the desk in the front/middle of the room.  We approached the closed door to the day room, gave one firm knock, and then waited to be acknowledged.  Once acknowledged, we would enter the room and close the door.  You'd march along the most direct route to the desk (usually a diagonal route), and stop when you were a few feet away.  You'd give a salute, a reporting statement, dialogue for a bit, and once dismissed, salute and proceed along the most direct route out of the room again.  My MTI made casual conversation to put us at ease, and the evaluation was over in a matter of minutes.  Again, most everyone should pass this evaluation with ease.  Nerves and loss of military bearing are the biggest contributors to failure.

These evaluations are two of the many components to your graduation, but don't be too nervous.  You'll have so many things going on in your 7WOT, these are just minute components to your training.  Always give it your best effort, but don't let your nerves overtake you.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Social Media and the Air Force

[Source]
As a [unofficial] Air Force Blogger, it would be negligent of me not to inform you of the recently updated Air Force policy on involvement in social media.  The Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Lackland AFB, recently released an updated guide for both Airmen and their families with guidelines and tips for social media usage.  It's a short, but thorough document that provides specific information about sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and so forth.  Fear not!  The Air Force enjoys and actively engages in social media, hence why we have access to FB and YT on military computers.  The AF also respects your rights to participate in these networks. 

Everyone tends to have a number of questions about their social media profiles prior to joining the military.  What can you say/not say?  What falls under OPSEC guidelines?  Even if you're not new to the Air Force, it's always a smart idea to brush up on current policies and procedures, to ensure that you're within regulations.  Better safe than sorry, always, especially when the safety and security of our Airmen are at stake.

Don't take my word on it, read the official document here

Monday, May 14, 2012

2012 Best U.S. Air Force Blog

It's official!  On Friday, May 11th, AimHighErin.com became the Best U.S. Air Force Blog of 2012 at the Military Blogging Conference, hosted by Military.com and Milblogging.com!

Sadly, I couldn't be in attendance at this year's conference, due to a previously scheduled (and much needed/anticipated) vacation.  Luckily, Rheanna of Cammo Style Love lives in the DC area and kept me in the loop throughout the awards ceremony.  She was able text me during the presentation of the MilBloggies, as well as take video during the AF announcement.  Little did she know that due to a miscommunication, she would be the one to step up and receive the award on my behalf, after telling them that I wasn't present to accept it.  Impromptu speech and description of AHE?  No problem, Rhe's got me covered!  I couldn't have picked a better person - a long-time bloggie friend and a fellow Air Force Wife!

video

Thank you to everyone that's stood by me 100% of the way, supporting all of my efforts here on this blog and all of its extensions.  Without you, my readers, my blog would not have purpose.  You're the reason that I dedicate so much time to AHE, and I'm constantly striving to do more, put out more, and contribute more.  My readers keep me motivated, so I dedicate this award to you.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!

Friday, May 11, 2012

MilSpouse Blog Hop

Milspouse Bloghop hosted by Household6Diva & Roller CoasterDid you know that the Friday before Mother's Day is Military Spouse Appreciation day, as proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984?  Well, now you do!  :)  In honor of this holiday, Ann Marie at Household 6 Diva and Riding the Roller Coaster are hosting a Military Spouse Blog Hop so that you can get to know your some of the fabulous military spouses that the internet has to offer!  Interested in participating?  Write an introduction and head over to link up to get in on the fun and possible win a prize!

Hello, I'm Erin and I'm an Air Force wife!  That statement still feels new to me - my husband (DH) recently switched branches from the Army Reserve to the Air Force Reserve.

When I met DH, he was a civilian, having previously served in the Marine Corps as a young man.  He had been out a while and wanted to get back into the military.  I've been with him every step of the way through his journey into (and out of) the Army.  We were married on the day of his graduation from basic training, but separated for many years after that as he left for technical training, an unaccompanied tour in Korea, his new duty station in North Carolina (Fort Bragg), and then Afghanistan.  Our relationship has been characterized by the separation so typical of military marriages, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  

I made the sacrifice to stay behind all of those years because I was completing my Master's Degree in Special Education and wrapping up three years of teaching, which allowed me to easily acquire new teaching licenses in other states as the military moved us around [currently licensed in California, North Carolina, and Colorado].  I've been teaching special education math for six years, and I've been in the field for eight years.  There's never a dull moment when you're teaching high school, let me tell you!  I love what I do and I love the relationships that I build with my students.

DH decided to leave the Army and join the Reserves.  We made the decision to come to Colorado, where he would enlist in the Air Force Reserve.  He threw me for a loop when he got sweet talked into the Army Reserve.  Flexibility is a must in the military!  He put about a year and a half in the Army Reserve before he was successfully able to switch over to the Air Force Reserve two months ago.

As you can see above, I am a military spouse and a military service member myself!  After moving out to Colorado, I made the decision to enlist in the Air Force Reserve - one of the best decisions I've ever made.  I'm proud to serve my country alongside my husband.

This brings me to my blog, Aim High Erin.  While I started as a milspouse blogger rambling about whatever came to mind, 2012 brought a change to my blog as I began focusing on my experience at BMT and sharing my stories with others.  The amount of people I've reached as a result of this evolution has been remarkable.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to help educate others about the enlistment and training process and sharing my love of the Air Force.

I'd love to connect with you!  You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, or regular ol' email!  Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your blog hop!      

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Never Left Behind

When you're in the thick of it, it's hard to envision MTIs being caring, compassionate individuals, especially in those first few weeks of training.  My MTI always stressed to us that our health and well-being was his first priority.  Yes, we were there to be broken down and reshaped into model Airmen, and the methods were sometimes questionable, but the intentions were good.
  
This morning a read a story shared by an MTI who I considered the most intimidating individual in my BMT experience.  He was the only MTI to ever make me cry.  He was from the old school style of training, and had been at Lackland forever, mentoring MTIs and trainees alike.  Here are his words, as I read them this morning:


"Today was one of my BEST days of my AF Career!  We had a new recruit who just arrived to Basic Training 8 days ago.  For the last year he and his wife have been homeless.  Not poor, homeless, as in sleeping on the streets.  His wife just arrived in San Antonio two days ago via Greyhound bus from West Virgina, with nothing but the clothes on her back.  She had been sleeping at the station and random places down town for the last two day until someone with a kind heart asked how she was.  Once she explained why she was here and knew no one they contacted the Air Force Aide Society.  They found her husband in Basic Training.  Within a couple of hours, both his MTI, his First Sergeant, and her husband went downtown to pick her up at the Greyhound station.  I contacted Processing to get the ball rolling on getting both he and his wife military ID cards.  She needed the military ID card to have access to all facilities to include medical care, you see she's 3 months pregnant.  His First Sergeant got his wife a place to stay on base free of charge for the next month, and food vouchers for groceries.  We did this with the support of many great Airman leaders working after duty hours and with a smile on thier face.  We got them all they ever needed, and for the last year never had within a few hours.  Finally as she was being escorted to a her new home and I escorted this new recruit back to training, I said to him, 'This is how WE welcome our brothers and sisters into OUR family.  Although WE have never met you or your wife, we don't care what you have or what you didn't have, you are in OUR family now.  I am proud to call you brother.  Welcome to the United States Air Force.'  He looked back at me and with a soft smile said, 'Thank you Sir.'  BEST DAY EVER!!!"


This is what it's all about - the brotherhood and sisterhood of service members.  The commitment to country and to our fellow man.  As the Airman's Creed states boldly and with pride, I will never leave an Airman behind.  It is my honor to consider this MTI as a mentor.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Miscellany Monday + MFF

miscellany monday at
lowercase letters Another busy, busy weekend and here we go again! I'm feeling behind on the blog, especially since I missed MilSpouse Fill-In Friday. I'm going to try to catch up today, so here goes nothing!

1.  On Friday I went to the Warrior Games at the US Air Force Academy.  I had been excited to attend for a while, but my date and my back-up date both had to bail on me.  I still came home after a long week, pulled on the ol' uniform, and hit Colorado's version of Friday "traffic" to drive up to the Academy.  I was surprised to see how small the crowds were, but to their defense they were very enthusiastic!  I ended up sitting next to a couple other female Airmen, and we chatted for most of the night.  Great group of ladies, great company for the evening.

I only saw one Academy cadet there, surprisingly, since we were within walking distance of the cadet area and it was in the evening after class.  I'm not sure how their schedules work though, so who knows.  The other think that shocked me were a couple of mean-spirited posters.  I completely understand branch rivalries and teasing, but to have an "Ain't Ready to be a Marine Yet" poster at a sporting event for Wounded Warriors seems inappropriate for the setting.  Let's celebrate ALL of our heroes!

This was definitely an under-appreciated, free event in the local area!  I saw two championship games, including seated volleyball and wheelchair basketball.  Both games featured the Army versus the Marine Corps and the Army dominated in both games.  Congratulations to all of those who competed in the Warrior Games!  

2.  This weekend was our first joint UTA!  Like a proud mom, I took a picture of the two of us before he left the house.  While on lunch break, I took a better one!s.  He did in-processing most of the weekend, but got a lot of great information from his unit about how his new schedule will look and how soon he could be shipping off to tech school.  I'm so thankful that the ball has finally started rolling.  He already knows a number of people in our wing, and was chit chatting with a number of my Loadmasters throughout the course of the weekend.  Looking forward to seeing him do great things!

3.  Happiness is when your husband suggests that you should just order pizza for dinner on a Saturday night.  I was exhausted after the UTA and could barely muster up the motivation to start laundry, let alone cook.  My head said tilapia, my heart said pizza.  My lower body, however, is saying that I'd better cut this crap out if I want to get back to that BMT body and be prepared for my PT test in August.  *sigh*  Goodbye, Chocolate Lava Crunch Cakes!

4.  I'm receiving a lot of unsolicited support, encouragement, and pushing from folks in my wing to go to OTS and commission.  If you've been reading for a while, you probably know that my heart's been pinned on MTI school, although I originally wanted to commission when I entered the Air Force.  I can't do both; I'm too old to make it all happen before my 35th birthday.  I've been having long talks with DH about the subject as a result.  I lifted these thoughts up on my personal Facebook page last night and was grateful to get the input of one of my MTIs whose opinion holds serious weight for me.  He's been an MTI for years, has mentored other MTIs, and is now a Blue Rope.  He was the one who called me up to the Snake Pit to ask when I was coming back to be an MTI.  He not only encouraged me to pursue commissioning, but said that if I do he'd take leave to come pin on my bars and give me my first salute.  That gives me peace about making the decision to "cross over to the dark side" and forgoing MTI school.  Nothing is definite yet, but I'm opening myself to the process again.  Who knows...maybe in a few years there will be a "Heading to OTS?" section to AHE.

5.  We leave on vacation this week!  I can't tell you how excited I am, even if it's just for a long weekend.  We never had a honeymoon [going on five years this summer!] and had an attempted trip to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg cancelled.  The last time we got out of town together was a weekend trip to Myrtle Beach post-deployment.  Finances and military commitments have prevented us from traveling for years now.  We're long overdue for a trip that we've planned together.  I can't wait to show DH some of my favorite parts of Colorado!

1.  What's one thing in the past month you would have changed?  Nothing that I can think of!  April was pretty uneventful, aside from a number of IEP meetings and birthdays.  Wait, I wish I would've finished cleaning the house.  There you go.  :)  I hate house cleaning!

2.  What was your favorite thing that happened in April?  Not very memorable.  Maybe our date night at this Mongolian BBQ place, where you build your own meal and watch them cook it?  I was excited to finally go there!

3.  What are your plans for Memorial Day?  Memorial Day and Fourth of July are my only two holidays over the summer.  I'll be on orders for the rest of the time.  Most likely I'll be laying around the house, enjoying one of my only days of summer, before reporting for duty the next day.

4.  Have you ever traveled Space A?  If yes, where...if no, would you ever try it?  Ugh, I wish!  With my work schedule, time is always a factor.  I'd love to have a free summer to try my chances with Space A.  Right now I can't run the risk of not making it home on my time schedule.  

5.  What are you looking forward to in May?  There's so much to look forward to in May!  Our first joint UTA, vacation this weekend [train ride!], running my first half-marathon [although this makes me nervous], get-together plans with the above mentioned MTI who's in town, a triple date/blate with Mel from Head in the Game, Heart in the Sand, finishing my 6th year of teaching, and starting my seasoning training!  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

BMT: The Period Problem

**Enter the TMI topic!  Males, go ahead and navigate away now, unless you're morbidly curious!**

I get asked period questions all the time.  It's not something most people feel comfortable asking their recruiter about, and it's yet another source of anxiety for a number of people.  Let me put your mind at ease, or at least, let me answer those questions!  If you think of something I haven't addressed, just leave your questions in the comments section and I'll add them to the post!

Tampons or pads?  Your choice, but I'd bring tampons if I was choosing between those two.  Tampons are easier to store, easier to carry on your person, and would feel more comfortable during those physically demanding challenges, such as the week at BEAST or on the obstacle course.  Some trainees opted to buy pantyliners as well, and most are small enough to store easily.  Your feminine supplies will have to go in the back of your security drawer, along with your loose toiletries, your hair items, your stationery supplies, your lint roller, etc.  You don't have a lot of space back there, so keep your supplies as small and compact.

How many supplies should I bring?  One box should be fine, and if not, you'll have the opportunity to buy more at the mini-mall.

Can we carry tampons/pads on our person?  Yes, you can!  It's one of the only items you can put into your pocket.  You're not allowed to put anything in your pockets - pens, hands, lip balm, etc., but you are allowed to put the necessary tampons for the day in a pocket.  Many chose to stash them in the calf pockets, since they're the perfect size.

Will I get my period at BMT?  Some trainees report that due to stress, they don't have a period at all while they're at BMT.  This wasn't the case for me.  Expect it to happen for you, but know that if it doesn't happen that it's not uncommon.  Everyone's body is different, and everyone will react differently to the stress that BMT presents.

What do I do if I get my period and I'm not prepared?  Your MTI will be used to having a flight full of 50+ menstruating females, so don't feel too awkward or uncomfortable.  Our male MTI told us that if we needed to take care of business that we should just tell him it was a "Code Red" situation and he would let us go on our way.  No big deal at all.  If you should find yourself out and about without supplies, ask others in your flight - someone else has to be in your same situation.

Eek!  What if I spot?  Will the laundry crew notice?  It's unlikely that your laundry crew will notice (or care) if you have an accident.  All of your underwear will be washed in a mesh bag, along with socks, sports bras, and compression shorts.  Your laundry mark will be on the bag, so your name won't be emblazoned on it.  The mesh bags are shoved in a laundry bag that is lined with a plastic trash bag if the items are wet.  You can put your mesh bag into a smaller white trash bag if you have wet items, then place it into the laundry bag.  There's a ton of laundry, and the laundry crew is often pressed for time, so I doubt they're going to be leisurely glancing at all of your items.  Don't stress about it, we've all been there.  You won't have time to soak your underwear, like you might at home, although you may be able to rinse it out for a bit before putting it in your mesh bag (and then a plastic bag).

I have really bad cramps, can I bring pain relievers?  Nope.  There are very strict rules at BMT about not letting trainees "self-medicate."  Prior to leaving for BMT, I stopped taking pain relievers while I was cramping because I knew they wouldn't be allowed down at BMT and my MTI probably wouldn't be sympathetic.  I would suggest that you try to do the same, if you're used to relying on them.  We all just hung in there and sucked it up during that time of the month.  The only way you'd get a pain reliever is if you have a "pain pack" from Reid Clinic.  Pain packs are typically given to trainees who have colds or fevers.  I didn't hear of one being given to a trainee with cramps, but it's worth asking your MTI if you can go to Reid's sick call if you truly have debilitating menstrual cramps.  The worst they can say is no.

I use a menstual cup.  Will that work at BMT?  Yes it will!  Most likely if you're using this sort of product, you've been using it for a while, so this is nothing new to you.  I took mine and was never questioned about it during the shakedown.  I had no issues with mine during any of the physical activities.

Can I continue to take birth control pills at BMT?  Yes, birth control is the only medication they don't mind or monitor.  You may continue to take your pills while you're down there.  I'd bring enough packs to get you through the 8.5 weeks, rather than attempt to refill a prescription or get a new pack from the clinic.  Make things easier on yourself and come prepared.
Can I start birth control pills while at BMT?  I don't believe they will give you an appointment so that you can be put on birth control while at BMT.  You'll have this opportunity at tech school, if you so desire.  The clinic at Keesler had weekly designated information meetings for Airmen that wanted to start using birth control pills.

Should I use my birth control pills to skip my period while at BMT?  Your choice, you know your body best and if this method is generally successful for you.  Having a period while at BMT wasn't that big of a deal, although you will have to be proficient at changing your products in a speedy manner.  When you have a ten minute break during classes to march to the dorm, run upstairs, put 50 trainees through six stalls, and be back on time, that doesn't give you a lot of time to take care of your feminine needs.  Make it snappy, you've probably got five other females standing outside the door, waiting to pee.

Where will I dispose of used products?  There's a red trash can in the latrine, with a stack of small wax paper bags nearby.  When you need to change, grab a bag, plop your used item in it, and dispose of it properly in the red trash can.  Do not use the regular trash can to dispose of pads or tampons.  You can get dinged on an inspection because of this.

Hope this helps answer everyone's questions!  Again, if I didn't address your concern, please let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Guest Post: Guide to Military Travel

Happy Wednesday, everyone!  I'm guest posting today over at Guide to Military Travel, a great resource website on how to get the most out of your off-duty and leave days!  Not only useful for service members, all DoD ID card holders should check it out for discounts, travel tips, and more.

I got talking with Erika (@Military_Travel) on Twitter and I was surprised to hear that she wasn't aware that she could utilize the services of the USO centers at the airport as a military dependent or DoD ID card holder.  I've loved and utilized the USO since I first became eligible as a spouse, and continue to use it whether I'm traveling for business or pleasure.

If you're heading to BMT soon, check out the post!  There are USO centers in airports all across the globe!  If you have layovers en route to Lackland, they're a great place to stop in, get a bite to eat [maybe the last junk food you'll eat for 8.5 weeks!], use the computer/WiFi, etc!  My wingman had never been to one when we were traveling down to San Antonio, so I introduced her to the Dallas USO where we enjoyed a piece of pizza and tried to make a dent in a box of Girl Scout cookies.

Happy reading!