Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mission First

Photo by TSgt Thomas J. Doscher
Many of you are aware that Colorado has been beat down over the last week with wildfires threatening homes and families within the Colorado Springs area.  As a state, we've been hit hard this fire season, with the latest series of fires (the Waldo Canyon Fire) really being too close for comfort.  

One of the primary missions of my reserve wing is MAFFS - Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System.  During the forest fire season, crews in my squadron stand ready to be tasked.  We primarily serve the western/Rocky Mountain region.  MAFFS is a joint mission that collaborates with the Department of Defense and the U.S. Forest Service.  [Source]  If I wasn't on seasoning training right now, I was going to take advantage of an opportunity to join the MAFFS mission as a member of the command post.  I would love to have that chance again in the future.  I can't tell you how proud I've felt, watching our C-130s take off to head into the fight, knowing those individuals who're up there working hand-in-hand with other local agencies to protect our homeland.

That being said, it's been a crazy week around here.  The air quality is really poor, so you can't go running outside.  More than thirty-two thousand people have been evacuated from their homes.  Sixteen thousand, seven hundred fifty acres have burned.  The gyms on the local bases (including mine) are closed, as they are housing evacuees at this time.  Everyone is connected to this tragedy, in some way, shape, or form.  We're finally at 15% containment, which seems like a huge step in the right direction, as small of a number as it may seem.  The community has really pulled together in remarkable ways, between donations, volunteering, and folks opening up their homes to displaced  neighbors. 

I am currently in an area that is unaffected, aside from the smoke in the air.  Unfortunately, our home is poorly insulated and has no air conditioning, so in the worst of nights, we'd have to shut the windows and turn on our small fans.  The house peaked to 94° inside at one point.  We're not the only ones in the area who don't have air conditioning - it's very common, especially for folks in the mountains.  Radio stations and other media outlets were encouraging folks without A/C to head to a friend's home or walk around at the mall/grocery store.

Long story short, that's what's been consuming my days and nights.  The weather was cooler today and they made strides with the fire fight.  We're praying and hoping for relief and cooler weather in the days to come.  Please continue to keep Colorado in your thoughts!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Airman of the Quarter

If you don't follow my Facebook page or my Twitter account, you may have missed the good news I shared on Friday.

I was contacted by an NCO in my office and asked to fill her in on my accomplishments, volunteer work [See, I told you volunteering was important to the AF], and academic progress since I'd returned from tech school.  She claimed it was for "Airman Feedback," although some others in the office I'm currently working in tipped me off that it might be for an award.

With the help of a tutorial website, afeprbullets.com, I wrote eight bullets on all of my endeavors, including all of the mentoring I do here on this website and through my Facebook groups.

I found out on Friday that I was indeed put up for an award and I am officially the Airman of the Quarter for my squadron!  I'm honored to have received such an award within my first year of being with my unit.  I'm proud to serve in the Air Force Reserve and honored to represent them with this title.

My sweet Grandma asked what this all means, and some of you may be wondering the same thing.  I don't know a whole lot, but I do know that they have Airmen of the Quarter at the group and wing levels as well, so I'm assuming I'll "compete" alongside winners from other squadrons (and maybe groups) next.  I'm not aware of who decides upon these winners, although I'm sure the commanders have a strong influence on the program, as that's who the announcement email came from.  I don't know if I'll receive any tangible sort of recognition, but it serves as an excellent bullet point for my future Enlisted Performance Report [EPR, a report card of sorts for enlisted members of the AF].

Thank you all for your well-wishes and congratulations on my other social media sites!  I look forward to making everyone proud and showing my appreciation for this honor!

BMT: Summers at Lackland

So, you're leaving for BMT during the summer?  This post isn't going to tell you what you don't already know (and what I've already written about) - it's going to be hot and you'll need to hydrate until you're running to the latrine every few minutes.  Instead, I'll tell you about all of the other little things that you might be wondering about your summer vacation at Lackland!

Sunglasses - The closest you'll get to a pair of sunglasses is seeing them on an MTI.  If you bring them down to BMT, they'll stay in your backpack/duffle bag in the civilian luggage closet, locked up for the duration of your stay.  Yes, this means you'll be squinting.  There were plenty of times where my eyes were burning in the sunshine and where they started watering as a result.  Just another one of those BMT pleasantries that you'll have to get used to out of necessity.

When you get to tech school, you are allowed to wear sunglasses, although not while in formation.  Most of the time that you're in uniform, you'll be in formation though.  Only in those first few weeks while you're on ITP (Initial Training Phase) will you be in uniform outside of the dorm during non-duty hours.  Otherwise, if you're in civilian clothes you can wear whatever sunglasses you want.

While in uniform, you must follow regulations regarding the style of your sunglasses.  Per AFI 36-2903:
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. Sunglasses (to include darkened photosensitive lenses) are not authorized in formation. Exception: Sunglasses are not authorized in formation, unless for medical reasons, e.g., PRK/lasik surgery and when authorized by a commander or commandant on the advice of a medical official.

Sunscreen - Prevention of sunburns falls under the BMT priority of your health and well-being. You'll spend countless hours outside while at BMT, and while you'll be in ABUs, your face, ears, hands, and neck will be exposed.  Each dorm's utility closet comes equipped with bottles of sunscreen - ours had six.  They were communal bottles, for everyone and anyone's use.  Remember that it'll be your responsibility to initiate the use of said sunscreen.  Our MTI only reminded us about it and/or insisted on it occasionally.

If you would like your own personal bottle of sunscreen, some may be purchased from the mini-mall on one of your trips.  I am hyper concerned about the protection of my skin, so I picked up a small bottle of facial sunscreen that I applied when I was getting ready for PT every morning.  The Texan sun is unforgiving, so regardless of your skin tone/type, apply your sunscreen often and liberally!  At one point I thought I was getting a darkened spot on my under eye as a result of my exposure.  My mother had bouts with skin cancer, so I know I'm susceptible.

Air Conditioning - Yes, the dorms (and all areas in the squadrons) have air conditioning!  I remember the thermostats regularly reading in the 75° range while at BMT.  It's a very comfortable temperature that is downright luxurious after a long day in the sun.  Rolling and folding clothes may not be fun, but you'll be thankful for those times when you can sit in your chair and roll/fold clothes in the air conditioned dorm.

As for BEAST, I was in the Reaper Zone [which is the newest one] and we had air conditioning in our tents.  This is not to say that it wasn't hot.  The air conditioning units can only do so much and are most effective if you're right in front of them.  Even with the air conditioning it still got to be in the 90° range in our tent.  It's better than nothing, let me tell you, especially when you're in MOPP gear!

Physical Training (PT) - Due to the heat, we did PT in the early morning, beginning at 0500 and ending by 0600.  PT times may vary depending on the time of the year that you're at BMT.  After PT, you'll shower before heading to breakfast.  Regardless of the early morning schedule for PT, you'll still get nice and sweaty out there!

Humidity - While Texas is humid [well, much more so than Colorado, where I'm from], it wasn't as horrible as you'd imagine.  The heat in general is pretty bad, and in full ABUs outside, you'll be sweating - just expect it.  I found that Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS, was significantly more humid.  Just keep hydrating and know that some days you're going to be peeling clothes off your body.  It's especially bad over graduation weekend when you're in your blues.  Many of the photos of me during that momentous occasion are marked by attractive, large sweat stains on my blues shirt.  :)  Fortunately for the females, you'll be allowed to purchase and wear an undershirt while in blues at tech school.  I went for a ribbed, men's style tank, and those worked out well for absorbing sweat and keeping it off my blue shirt.

Sleeve Rolling - You've probably seen images of Airmen in ABUs with their sleeves rolled up.  Don't get too attached to this idea - the rolling of sleeves is not permitted while at BMT, regardless of the temperature.  Even your MTIs will wear their sleeves down.  You'll get to roll your sleeves while at tech school [it was mandated for my squadron at Keesler AFB].

Final Thoughts - Remember, you're not the first, nor will you be the last trainee to complete BMT during the painfully hot summer months.  Thousands of trainees have gone before you.  I had to keep reminding myself of that fact.  You WILL make it!  Hang in there, keep hydrating, and stay motivated!  These 8.5 weeks of discomfort are only a moment of time in your Air Force career.  When I look back on my experience, I don't think about the heat and the sweat, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat without hesitation.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Here and Helpful!

Still here, folks!  Some quick updates for everyone:
  • The house fell through, just as I've always feared during the home buying process.  The home inspection revealed tens of thousands of dollars in repairs, beyond what we could ask the sellers to fix.  Needless to say, I was devastated.  It's been a very emotional and rough couple of days, especially with all of the other stressors in our lives.
  • My dad missed his flight and is still en route to my house at 0132 hours.  I'm glad to have him, regardless, but I feel sorry for the travel fatigue he has to endure to get here.  At least it bought me a few more hours to get things in order and go for a run this evening!  I will definitely be doing the bulk of the driving to Kansas tomorrow.
  • Oh yes, Kansas.  The purpose for the family visiting is to bury my grandpa's and aunt's ashes in the small town my grandma grew up in.  I was thankful to learn that I could use a leave day so that I might accompany them on the journey.  It's a quickie overnight trip there and back, but it's going to give me some badly needed time with my dad, who I haven't seen since BMT graduation.  I really need to relax a bit, destress, and get away for a hot minute.
  • Feeling good about my upcoming DSST test in Principles of Supervision, after my second practice test.  So good that I rescheduled a couple days earlier, to this coming Tuesday.  I want to get in there and take it while the material is fresh.
  • I finally created an acronym glossary for the blog, by reader request!  See that tab up there?  Go there if you're confused about what the heck I'm talking about!  Happy reading!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Having a GREAT Air Force Day!

A popular phrase you'll hear in my beloved branch is, "Have a great Air Force day!"  Well folks, we're having a phenomenal Air Force day!

I know I've been quiet on here lately, and it's not because I don't want to post, trust me.  I didn't imagine that seasoning training would have me busier than my normal full-time job, but it does.  I'm at work by 0730 every day and I'm released at 1600.  Pretty standard stuff there, but every day I go to the gym after work for at least an hour.  Once that's done I head home, make dinner, clean up dinner, then try to get motivated to clean or do something productive.  Normally that's out the window and I play on the computer and watch TV.  I'm sure part of it has to do with the fact that I'm at my desk all day long, versus moving around like I do in the classroom.

Always aiming high, I've always got a number of projects in the works.  I'm studying for a CLEP in Principles of Management for this coming Tuesday, which will put me one step closer to my CCAF.  Once I take that, I'll book my last test for that AAS degree.  I'm already scheduled for my AFOQT, which I'm taking in mid-July.  We've been eating better at home, minimizing snacks and junk foods, eating more fruits and vegetables, and drinking Shakeology for breakfast.  My PT test is in August, hence the extra emphasis on health and fitness.  Plus, who wouldn't want to get back to that BMT body?  ;)

I mentioned above that as a Personnelist (3S0X1), my job is mainly confined to an office, with the exception of days like today!  Today was my first time out on the flight line, something that's old hat to DH (a crew chief).  I got to climb into a C-130 and a C-17.  These planes are just beautiful, and even more so up front.  It makes you proud to be a part of the Air Force, it really does.  I joked with two co-workers that we picked the wrong AFSC.  I even did my diligent duty and partook in my own FOD (foreign object damage) walk, picking up three pebbles.  On a flight line, you have to ensure that there is nothing on the flight line that could find its way into the machinery and cause damage or harm to your people.  This includes rocks and pebbles.  Definitely wouldn't want one shot out of an engine at anyone.

PhotobucketI'm also being featured today on Rheanna's blog, Cammo Style Love!  She's doing a series on military lifestyles, and featuring the challenges and unique experiences of bloggers in a variety of branches and service statuses.  If you'd like to read more about my journey as a milspouse and then a Reservist, check it out!  I'm a big proponent of the belief that you can have a life and a career as you follow your spouse wherever the military takes you.  Heck, you can even serve yourself!  I really don't see myself as exceptionally stronger than others.  When you're a milspouse, you just make it work.  Not because you particularly want to [be separated or alone], but because you have to.  That's life, there's no other option.  That's life and I wouldn't take any other option.  I love my life!

DH got his tech school date today!  He leaves sooner than expected, and will start school at the end of this month.  We couldn't be more excited.  He's eager to get going and learn how to do his job.  We're both glad to have him on active duty orders during this time period, since we'll reap all of the active duty pay and benefits.  This is a great thing, especially when you've just...

BOUGHT A HOUSE!  Yes!  This has been a goal of ours for a while, but we knew we had to clean up our finances prior to jumping in.  I didn't imagine that 2012 would be the year we made it happen.  When I made the decision to commission, it changed the "Grand Master Plan," which keeps us here in Colorado for an undetermined length of time...maybe forever.  We'd found a short-sale home that we were interested in buying, but it ended up falling through.  I temporarily gave up on home buying, but another house lead us to our current one.  This one finally made me fall in love, and it's move-in ready with some fantastic amenities for an older home (built in '75).  It was a flip and the sellers did a great job at outfitting it with everyone most folks want in a home (stainless appliances, granite, etc).  There is nothing that I will have to do when we move in - no immediate needs whatsoever.  You noticed I said the word "I?"  Yes, that's because in true military fashion, DH will be at training and I will be moving us by myself (with the help of my FIL and friends).  Luckily this house is close to our current rental and we'll have an overlap of seventeen days in which to move.  Back and forth we'll go, little by little!  

So, can you see why I've been a busy lady?  I wouldn't have it any other way - thankful for all of the blessings in my life!  Thanks for your patience, readers, I'll be with you shortly!

Friday, June 1, 2012

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In #72


It's that time of the month!  Check out Wife of a Sailor if you want to get in on the monthly questions!

1.  What's one thing in the past month that you would have changed?  May was a pretty good month for us, I can't say that I'd change anything!  

2.  What was your favorite thing that happened in May?  SO much happened for us in May.  Bill finally had his first UTA with the Air Force Reserve, and I was pleased to see things go so well for him.  I love seeing him when he's motivated - he's getting his ducks in a row and hopefully he'll ship to tech school soon after this next UTA.  We also went on vacation to Durango, which went really well and was much deserved/needed.  I won a MilBloggie, can't forget that!  Then I ran my first half marathon (a 2012 goal) and was pleased with my performance.  I finished off the month with the end of the school year (the end of my 6th year of teaching), and the beginning of my seasoning training.  Long story short, I think my favorite thing was the vacation.  I wish DH and I got to do that more often.  I was really pleased with our accommodations, and I think that really made the trip.

3.  June includes the first day of summer...what are your plans for the summer?  My plans are already in action - seasoning training!  I'm in the tough part of it right now, because we have an exercise going on at work, so my hours are wonky.  [Don't worry, this is public knowledge, and not an OPSEC violation.]  I've also been tough at work because I'm in the middle of an endless computer-based training.  Once it's over, I'll finally get to have my hands-on and do some experiential learning!  Other than that, I'm in a wedding this month, so I have all of the build-up for that and then the big day.  I'm most excited for my family coming into town this month and getting to spend some quality time with my dad over Father's Day weekend.

4.  Do you use the services on base (gym, financial planning, family services, daycare)?  And if so, what's your favorite one?  You bet I do!  I use the commissary, BX, education center, and gym.  Do I have to have a favorite?  They all offer different services and perks.  :)  I use the commissary the most frequently, and like it when used in conjunction with my coupons.  Peterson has a beautiful gym, which I'll be hitting up every day this summer.  I haven't used our travel and tickets office, but hopefully I'll have the opportunity soon!

5.  What are you looking forward to in June?  My dad coming to visit!  I found out that I'm going to be able to take off the Friday of the weekend that he's here, so I'll be able to take a short road trip with him to Kansas, where my grandma and uncle will be burying my grandpa's and aunt's ashes.  I'm thankful that I'll get to spend more than just a day with him here in town.  We don't get to spend quality time together that often, so I'm ecstatic to get some daddy/daughter time.