Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Our 5th Anniversary

I'm a couple days early, but I had to tell you all about our anniversary "getaway" (well, staycation for him) to Sheppard AFB, Wichita Falls, TX!

DH and I have had a military marriage characterized by separation, which is true of 99% of military marriages.  One of the biggest sacrifices you make is celebrating holidays together (and with family).  Here's the breakdown of how our relationship as gone.

August 2nd, 2007 - Married, but no wedding night, thanks to DH being at BCT (Army basic training) and having to go back to the barracks each night.  Needless to say, no honeymoon either.

2008 - DH stationed in Korea on an unaccompanied tour.

2009 - DH comes home from Afghanistan on R&R (Rest and Recuperation).  Glitches in travel resulted in me driving twelve hours round trip to pick him up from the airport two states over.  After sleeping in, we finally made it to dinner.

2010 - DH stays behind in North Carolina, waiting to out-process.  I move ahead to Colorado, where I go through in-processing for my new job.

2011 - In the middle of training, we were able to see each other over graduation weekend at BMT, but our anniversary found me at the beginning of tech school.

I share all of these stories, not for sympathy, but to lay the background as to why DH wanted to do something really special this year.  With both of us on active duty orders, we were able to fly me down for a long weekend at Sheppard for our anniversary.  Unbeknownst to me, DH had made arrangements with the front desk to take it to the next level!  He upgraded our room to a suite, which was only maybe $20 more overall (base lodging is the way to go).  He explained to them what he wanted to do, and they hooked him up with a local wedding planner.  Everyone at the front desk knew to stall my check-in, if I should be persistent and try to get into my room early.  When we finally got in, I found no less than 100 candles lit all over the room, approximately seven floral arrangements, and scads of rose petals everywhere!  The wedding planner didn't leave open space anywhere, including the top of the toilet tank!  For a man who doesn't typically make a big deal about holidays, this was huge.

A takeout Italian dinner was ready for us, with a bottle of sparkling cider on ice (neither of us drink).  He even had our original wedding cake duplicated (small, white-on-white), complete with flowers on top.  Our original cake came from Walmart (scrumptious, believe it or not), and you can imagine that the bakery was the first question I asked him when I spotted it!  Alas, this was not a Walmart cake, but it was just as delicious!  

Look past the "Ride Me!"  ;)
When DH originally told me that he had the whole weekend planned, I was initially worried because I was exhausted from the week.  Luckily, we had a lot of down time to kick back and watch movies together.  You can only spend so much time outdoors when the temperature is 105°.  We even got to do a movie date on Sunday, and saw "The Watch."

On Saturday, we went to the local train museum.  We're big train buffs, so there's always time for another trip to a different one!  This was a small museum with a few trains in the yard, but you got what you paid for (admission was $2).  Most of the trains need to be restored, but we were amazed at all of the artifacts that were just laying around for visitors to touch.  There was even a rail handcart in the yard that wasn't permanently anchored to the ground - I was shocked to see that you could take it for a test ride!  When we first arrived, we spotted this little novelty "train" and noticed that the back of the seats were branded "Carpenter!"  Needless to say, I had to get a picture.

What trip to Sheppard would be complete without seeing where DH goes to school each day?  I got numerous tours of the base, went for walks through the airpark, saw a drove of jackrabbits (they're huge, and super tall), and we took pictures of the actual aircraft that DH is using for his hands-on training.  Sheppard has multiple shifts throughout the day and night, and DH is on days, fortunately (aside from the heat).  There's just something remarkable about being near these beautiful pieces of machinery.  You're so small in comparison and the things they can do are just astounding.  Moments like those remind me that I made the best decision by joining the Air Force.  I'm really looking forward to commissioning, and I hope to be an Aircraft Maintenance Officer, where I'll get to be on the flight line, working directly with our maintainers and our C-130s.  Schooling after I commission would bring me back to Sheppard, so I was thankful for a glimpse into what the living conditions and facilities would be like when I'm here.

Given our current duty status, I couldn't have imagined a better anniversary weekend for the two of us.  As much as people gave me a hard time about making a pleasure trip to Wichita Falls, any duty station is what you make of it.  With as many separations as we've had to (or chosen to) make during our military careers, we're just thankful to be together and have each other.

Monday, July 30, 2012

AFOQT Results

I shared with you earlier this month about my experience taking the AFOQT.  Since I took it on paper, I was expecting to hear about my results in a couple weeks.  I had seen rumors online that there was a website where you could look up that information, but never got a solid lead.  Facebook to the rescue!  A kind person pointed me in the right direction

If you want to see your results, regardless of testing format, click on this link.  Fear not, you don't need a CAC reader to access this site, which is part of the AF Personnel Center site.  All you need is your social security number, last name, and the name of your testing site.  If you have the testing site number, it's a little quicker, but you can still scroll down the list and find your site (like I did).

[Source]
My scores on the subtests are compiled into composite scores in five different areas, including Pilot (P), Navigator (N), Academic Aptitude (A), Verbal (V), and Quantitative (Q).  WantsCheck.com has this great table to help show you how your scores on each of the subtest make up each of the composite scores.

Now that I look at that chart, it's interesting to see that the Rotated Blocks and the Hidden Figures seemingly don't count for anything.  Weird.  

On with my scores!

Pilot - 87
Navigator - 95
Academic Aptitude - 93
Verbal - 81
Quantitative - 94

I was ecstatic to see my scores tonight, and I'm very pleased with how I did!  I wish my Verbal could've been higher, but those sections went by so quickly and I had to guess in the end.  I was shocked to see how well I did on the Navigator section.  I really tried to practice understanding those dials and compasses and how they affect the positioning of the aircraft, so I'm proud of how I did.  Of course, I'm too old to be a pilot and a navigator, so even though I did well, it won't result in me being either one of those type of officers.

I feel really good about these scores that I'll be bringing forward as a part of my commissioning package.  Aside from the Verbal, they're very strong and competitive.  A friend asked if I was going to retest to try to get a higher score.  While I can take the AFOQT one more time, the second test will waive these first scores (regardless of whether I score higher or lower) and I'd have to wait six months to retest.  With me planning to put my package in this fall, that doesn't work in my schedule.  I'm very satisfied with what I've earned, and I'm moving forward to the next step!      

Friday, July 27, 2012

I'm a Side Hustler!


Yesterday was a big day for my guest posting, at least in my mind!  :)  I've been exposed to personal finance blogs through my BFF Trinnie, who works in that industry.  One really popular blog out there is Budgets Are Sexy, written by the hip Mr. J. Money (J$)!  The blog is geared toward younger people who are getting their financial lives in order.  Tons of great information, wonderful testimonials, and a frank discussion of how we treat our cash.

J$ has a "Side Hustle" series that features the odd jobs that real people do to bring in extra cash.  Previous entires have included everything from working on a food truck, being a yoga instructor, writing questions for standardized tests, an "adult phone actress," and more!  

I never thought of myself as a hustler before, but one day it hit me like a ton of bricks.  The Air Force Reserve was my ultimate side hustle!  The second job that I don't consider a job, yet just makes financial sense.  I was concerned before the post came out that I might get some negative feedback from folks who didn't think I was serving for the "right" reasons, which anyone here knows is far from the truth.  Fortunately, I've gotten nothing but positive feedback so far and it's been a great experience!  Glad to spread the USAFR love!

Check out my post, to see why the Air Force Reserve just makes sense (and cents) for me, financially!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

BMT: An LGB Perspective

Erin's Note: As a blogger, I write from my perspective, which is that as a heterosexual, predominantly white, married, older, skeptical, educated female.  I can only share about BMT as it is seen through my eyes, and I recognize that others experience BMT differently.  With the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), trainees who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) may serve openly.  This post has been months in the making, and I'm excited to share with you an interview that I did with a member of my brother flight who is openly gay.  My hope is that those of you who identify as LGB find encouragement in this post, as all trainees share the ultimate common goal of becoming Airmen.

**Please note that any off-topic, political (regarding the DADT repeal), or derogatory comments made on this post will be promptly deleted.  This is my brother and a fellow Airman - we take care of our own.**

Aim High Erin (AHE): Name (or alias), rank?

Interviewee (AVT): A1C Van Tempist [alias]

AHE: AD/RES/ANG?

AVT: Air Force Reserve

AHE: Please describe yourself [you can be as broad or narrow as you'd like].

AVT: I’m a 25-year-old African American, Christian male, born in Camden, NJ.  I've traveled around the world for most of my childhood, Panama and Germany, and ended up in Brooklyn, NY for the end of middle school and all of high school, so you could say I was raised in Brooklyn.

AHE: What factors lead to your enlistment in the Air Force?

AVT: I joined the AFR for a couple of reasons; as I previously stated, I have traveled around the world, [which] was made possible by my father being a part of the World’s Greatest Air Force.  He was the biggest influence for me to take this path; he always took care of home and made sure that all was right.  I also did research and discovered the benefits that the Air Force has to offer.  I love education, and if they will help me better myself, I’m all for it.  Most important was the fact that I wanted to change my life.  I was trying to reach a higher level but just traveling down the same valley.  I just needed to elevate myself and serving my county was the way to go.  I knew that the path would be difficult but I wanted the opportunity to show myself and all those watching me that if you put your mind to it, you can do whatever you want to in life, no matter what comes your way.

AHE: How did your family and friends react when you told them you were enlisting? Was your sexual preference ever a topic in this discussion? If so, how so?

AVT: Me deciding to join the Air Force was a shock to most of my friends but not to my family.  Some of my friends had negative views on it, due to my sexual orientation, making such comments as, "Girl, as soon as you break a nail you'll be right back out here," or just sly little comments like "You’re not going in there to do [any] work, you’re just trying to get a man."  LOL and trust me, I since then proved them wrong, but they still were supportive when the bottom line was met.  My family knew that I could do it and didn't think twice about the decision, and yes, they did joke and tease me a lot about it, but that’s family.  My mother and father did have some serious talks with me about some things that could happen and just gave me knowledge on how to handle some situations that might arise in my journey. I must admit that parents are knowledgeable about this world we live in and I thank them for taking the time to teach me a thing or two about handling people and their mentality toward a person such as myself.

AHE: How did you first come out to other members in your flight, if you did so formally? Was it understood but unspoken?

AVT: Interesting question, at first no one even thought about my sexuality because I didn’t show my true self, but if you really thank about it, [in] your first two weeks of basic everyone puts on a front.  Being in a new environment you tend to be a little [reserved] and floating in the background observing everyone else, but as the weeks go by and you get to know your fellow wingmen you get comfortable, and that’s what happened with me.  At first my actions as far as body language started to turn heads and make them think.  After a while the questions started to come up, and I still was not ready to come out [of] the closet to my wingmen so I would lie, but there comes a time in basic when you just don’t care anymore and you see that the people you are around are like family, and that’s when you could really let your hair down (in a sense).

One night after lights out we were all chilling out, just having casual convo and then the questions came [up] again about my sexuality, and I just decided to free myself; I let them know about my life, who I and what I am.  [It was] one of the best times of my life; they made me feel at home, very accepted.

AHE: How were you treated by your fellow flight members? By your MTI team? Do you felt like you were treated differently than other members of the flight?

AVT: As the weeks went by my wingmen and I became very close, there were some times that I was tried do to my sexuality, some members thought because of the category I’ve been placed in that I fall under the same stereotype, you know, “Oh, he is gay so he just gonna be a pushover,” a little punk, but if anyone knows me as they have learned I don’t fall under that stereotype.  In some ways I was treated differently but was only disrespected a few times, but that was quickly rectified.  As far as my MTIs, they didn’t see anything but a civilian that they had to turn into one of the Worlds Greatest Airmen.

AHE: Did you ever receive any negative attention [beyond joking/teasing] as a result of your sexuality? 

AVT: Not everyone shared the feelings of my flight members or my MTIs and just like any part of life you will have people that you can get along with and then those you just don’t.  That definitely was the case in some parts of basic, but one must remember basic is a melting pot of different people and cultures and religion; not everyone will like you for you.  I’ve had conflict with other wingman from different squadrons, just little small quarrels but that too was handled.

AHE: Do you feel that your experience at BMT was different than other trainees as a result of your sexuality? If so, how so?

AVT: I would have to say that I do believe that my experience in BMT was different then the other trainees due to my sexuality.  I have to pay homage to the men that turned me in to one of the World’s Greatest Airmen, SSgt Williams and SSgt Urban...SSgt Williams has a method to his madness.  I believe that the mental training he put me through was much more strenuous to me than any other trainee there.  He pushed me to my full potential and wanted to see if I had what it took to become an Airman.  It’s funny because both sergeants knew I could do the physical aspect of training, so they both went for the mental portion of it.  That wasn’t easy to get through but it’s an accomplishment for anyone to get through BMT [and] for a person that has such a taboo lifestyle it’s a greater achievement.

AHE: What advice, tips, or suggestions do you have for other LGB trainees or prospective trainees?

AVT: The best advice I can give my LGB is the same I give for anyone else.  If you’re going to join the World’s Greatest Air Force, join for a reason and make sure that reason is solid because it’s not easy.  It will never be easy; you will adapt and overcome, just as long as you stay focused and know why you are there.  Don’t ever give up and don’t give in.  Your life has meaning and purpose, and it’s not just for grins and giggles that you made it to BMT.  You’re there for your own personal reasons but on top of that you’re there to change someone else’s life and I bet you anything in the world that someone is there to change your life.

AHE: Any last words of motivation, inspiration, or encouraging stories from your experience at BMT?

AVT: I say all that to say this: life is crazy and unpredictable but you still have free will to do what you want to do.  To all my LGB trainees and airman alike, this is our time to show up and show out.  Our personal lives have nothing to do with the mission.  We are being trained or have already been trained to do our part of the mission.  Let’s go in and play our part to its full potential.  Always Aim High...FLY...FIGHT…WIN...SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE TRAINEES!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More Reading Material!

Wanted to pop on here and bring a couple things to your attention this evening!  

My bloggy friend Lyzz over at Defying Gravity started a "Military Monday" series on her blog, where she's going to start telling stories of her military career which spanned two branches, including the Air Force Reserve and the Army!  She went through BMT back in 2005 [Hello BDUs!], but some of her stories and emotions are timeless.  Check her out!  She's also a milspouse to an active duty soldier.  She gave me a shout-out today in her first post about BMT.

This week is a big week for guest posting for me as well.  I wrote a couple pieces a few weeks back, and I'm excited to share them with you and a new audience as well!  

Another milspouse friend of mine, Sarah, is doing a series on Career Driven Military Spouses, to highlight those who've made their careers a priority as they move around the globe with their service members.  If you've been curious as to how I've managed to wrangle my own civilian career, through sacrifice and calculated decisions, check out my guest post!  If you're at all thinking about being a teacher, there's tons of information in there for you specifically, milspouse or not.

I have another guest post coming this Thursday as well, on a really popular personal finance blog!  It's a first for me on that sort of forum, and it's aimed at all of you Reservists or those who are considering the Air Force Reserve!

Hope everyone's week is off to a great start!  I'm exhausted, for no apparent reason, but I'm rallying because I have so much to look forward to!       

Monday, July 23, 2012

Miscellany Monday

miscellany monday at lowercase lettersHappy Monday!  It's a short week for me, thankfully, as I'll explain more below.  Lots of good things happening soon and the summer's ending really quickly.  A little too quickly!

1.  I only have seven more days of seasoning training left!  Just this week and next remains, then I'll be signed off for all of my upgrade training tasks.  Five level, here I come!  I pick up eight credits (technical education credits) from seasoning training that will count toward my CCAF degree and be the last push I need to get my Associate's degree in Human Resource Management.  Big, big summer of accomplishments!

2.  This Friday I'm heading down to Texas for my romantical getaway weekend at Sheppard Air Force Base.  Yes, Wichita Falls for my 5th anniversary!  DH is down there at tech school right now, learning how to be a crew chief on our C-130s.  I'm so thankful that I'm getting the opportunity to get away and see him before school starts and the summer is completely over.  With as much as he complains about not having much to do down there, he's got most of our weekend planned already.  I'm really excited, as he's not much of a planner and not very much into holidays.  We tend to have low key celebrations - can't wait to see what he has in store!

3.  This weekend I went to the Brothers of the Sun Tour with Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, courtesy of the Air Force Reserve!  I ended up taking a friend from BMT, my teacher best friend, and an MTI friend of mine.  We had a pre-party with Tim McGraw and it was like being in a small, intimate club setting.  He did three songs, including "Red Ragtop."  Amazing time had by all!  I was hoping to meet up with Michelle, a bloggy friend over at a little bit of this & that, but the cell service was so horrible at Mile High Stadium that we never connected.  =/  

4.  Sunday I went to brunch with the same BMT friend above, and another BMT friend who's here for annual tour [she's a Reservist too] at the Air Force Academy.  She's a medic and is currently working in the field where the cadets are going through their version of BMT before the school year starts.  How cool is that?  She gets to see how "the other side" trains.  ;)  She told me that they have a laundry service while in the field.  It was great to catch up, just the three of us, and reminisce as we look back on almost a year of being out of BMT.  [FYI, when I say "BMT friend" here, I meant these ladies were actually in my flight.  Needless to say, we spent a lot of quality time together.]

5.  My wingman has been away on vacation over the last few days and I'm lonely without her, let me tell you!  Working Customer Service is not nearly as enjoyable when you're flying solo.  Of course, I'm about to do the same thing to her at the end of the week.  I miss my lunch buddy, my sing-a-long partner, and being able to trade off on tasks.  Cherish your wingmen!  They're indispensable!  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Airman of the Quarter Board

The results are in from the Airman of the Quarter board, and rather than make you wait until the end of this post, I'll tell you now that I was not selected.  After receiving some initial feedback and waiting a week, I was gearing myself up for this, so I wasn't upset.  I am genuinely happy for the winner.  He met the board after me and seemed really nervous.  He had even less notice than I did that he was even meeting the board.  He really must have worked some magic in that room, and for that I say kudos to him!  I have faith in my abilities and what I have to offer as an Airman.  My military career is only just beginning, and I know I will do great things in my time!

I wanted to write this post for you to pass on what I learned, as well as tell about my experience.  Read on!

Background
The board I met was for the Airman of the Quarter for the wing.  I won at the squadron and group levels as well, but those ones were judged by the commander strictly off of my nomination form.  My supervisor asked me to send her some bullets of things I'd accomplished since I'd been back from tech school.  This information was used to complete AF IMT 1206, Nomination For Award.  My understanding is that one of the executive officers in my squadron completed this before sending it over to my commander for final review.  The bullets on this form addressed "Performance in Primary Duties," "Significant Self Improvement," and "Base and Community Involvement."  It ended with my commander's endorsement and his signature.  This got passed up to the group commander, and then was used as part of my packet for the board itself.

The Package
When selected by the group to meet the board for the wing level, the Military Personnel Section (MPS) puts together a package of your information.  This included my 1206, a printout of my last PT evaluation, my personnel file (which details my service, civilian education, and pretty much my entire life in the Air Force), and a printout of the medals and ribbons I've received.  I was not allowed to view this package, so this is the best understanding I have about what was in it.  

The Board Members
The board consisted of five members, one of whom was designated as the president.  The members of my board included MSgts down through SSgts.  I don't believe there were any SMSgts, and there were definitely no Chiefs.  The president acts as the facilitator, explaining the process and calling on each member to ask their question.  All of the board members wore service dress.  In some instances, you may have an officer as the board president, which affects your reporting procedures.

The board will be assisted by a proctor.  Ours was the Personnelist who handles awards and decorations in our MPS.  This individual will let you know how and when to enter the room where the board is seated.  They will also collect the evaluation sheets.

Dress and Appearance
Service dress is required for meeting the board.  Your uniform must be impeccable, to say the least.  Break out the sewing scissors to trim threads, have a lint roller with you at the ready, starch, press, shine, you know the deal!  I had AFI 36-2903 open for reference and you'd better believe I was measuring multiple times with my ruler when I was attaching my rack and name tag.  I was originally planning to wear a skirt, but saw the recommendation to wear pants and it made sense.  The idea was to avoid the board questioning your skirt length, but I realized that if I sat at attention my knees would be open - not appropriate for the board!  As much as you love wearing those heels, break out the low quarters, since you'll have to do facing movements.  I had been cautioned about wearing my princess blouse, since it might ride up under my service coat, but it worked out fine.

Preparation
If you can, as a supervisor or a Chief in your squadron to do a mock board with you.  That was helpful in both preparing me mentally for the questions I'd receive, good practices during the board, as well as helped me feel more at ease.  One of my Chiefs had two MSgts join him, and they took turns asking me questions.  I worked on eye contact and the delivery of my answers to the questions.  They gave me feedback after each one, letting me know how they'd score my responses.

Preparation also entails knowing your stuff, BMT style!  Make sure you know the mission of your wing, the chain of command for your wing and MAJCOM, as well as the Air Force at the uppermost levels, and the duties and responsibilities of your AFSC.  Be prepared to be asked questions about your personal accomplishments, your future plans, etc.  It's all fair game for the board members.

The Morning Of
Prior to meeting the board, I assembled a bag of last minute items I might need, almost like an emergency kit for a bride.  I had hairspray, extra hair pins, sewing scissors, tweezers (for pulling threads), and a lint roller.  I made sure that my makeup was toned down, with little to no shimmer.  I applied a ton of product in my hair, so that it'd meet the strictest standards.  I didn't wear my service coat in the car, but brought a hanger.  Prior to walking over to the meeting location, I had my supervisor and the executive officers give me one last glance-over, to inspect my uniform.

Procedures for Meeting the Board
While I waited for my appointment, I took the time to take deep breaths and calm myself down.  When it was my time, the proctor let me know that the board was ready for me.  I was instructed to give one loud knock and wait to be acknowledged.  Once given permission to enter, I was to march forward directly in front of the chair (the board was to my left, the chair to my right).  Once I reached the chair, I would left face and then give my reporting statement.  As the board president was not an officer, I didn't have to salute.  My reporting statement was, "Ma'am, Airman Carpenter reports to the Quarterly Awards Board as requested."  At this point, I was given commands to make four right facing movements, with pauses in between, so that the members might inspect my appearance.  After that I was seated, but never told to sit at ease.  I was seated at attention for the duration of the meeting.  At the end, I stood up, thanked the board, made a left face and exited the room.

The Points
Each board member had an evaluation sheet to complete during my appointment.  Board members do not consult with each other during the process, and judge the Airman independently.  These scores are averaged to reveal the final total, after completion of the process.  Your wing may score things differently, keep that in mind.  The score breakdown was as follows, to the best of my recollection:
  • Package - 7.5 points
  • ??? - 7.5 points
  • Dress and Appearance - 15 points
  • Presentation and Delivery - 20 points
  • Question #1 - 10 points
  • Question #2 - 10 points
  • Question #3 - 10 points
  • Question #4 - 10 points
  • Question #5 - 10 points
As you can see, I'm not entirely sure, since I really wasn't allowed to examine these evaluation sheets in advance.  The questions were definitely worth ten points a piece, and I remember being surprised to see that the package was worth very little points.  Don't quote me on the other three things.  Ultimately, you get the idea.  Your responses to the questions are almost everything.  Each evaluator is allowed to write comments as well.

The Questions
The questions used at a board are usually pre-determined/pre-written, and ours were given to the members on the day of the board.  Each member got to ask one question.  When responding, make eye contact with the member asking the question, then move your gaze to meet the eyes of the other members, ending on the original member.  It is essential to avoid any fidgeting or use of the word "uh" when responding to questions.  It's okay to ask a member to repeat a question, and taking time to think before answer is also acceptable.  Answers shouldn't be too short, but they also don't want you to be overly wordy.  Be mindful of how your nervousness may be affecting the speed or volume of your speech.  My Chief told me that they expect people to be somewhat nervous, and some members may be lenient with points because of that fact.  If you do not know the answer to a question, it is acceptable to say that you don't know the answer, but that you'll get back to them with the answer or that you'll look into it.  A previous winner actually came back and made arrangements to tell them the answer later, which reflected really well on her.  My questions were as follows:
  • What is the mission of the wing?
  • What are your roles in your AFSC?
  • Why did you join the Air Force Reserve?
  • What do you consider your biggest accomplishment in your Air Force career so far?
  • What leadership quality do you find the most important?
My questions were easier than I imagined.  I was prepared to be hit with a chain of command question, and I had also been told to review current world events in relation to the Air Force and our mission.  I felt really strong in my responses to these questions.

After the five questions had been asked, the board president asked if I had any questions for any of the members.  Prepare a question before you go!  I cited the number of people in our wing who had been there for 20+ or 30+ years, and asked the board what they felt the biggest contributing factor was to a lengthy career in the Air Force Reserve.    

The Results
I was initially told I might hear later on that same day, or no later than the next morning.  I found out almost a week later.  The results were tabulated, then presented to the Command Chief of our wing, who forwarded them onto the Wing Commander, who signed off on them.  After that, the results flowed down the chain of command.  When I heard that the group commanders had been given the results, I sought out my group commander to hear the news from him.

That's all, folks!  That's the rundown.  It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster leading up to that day, and that weekend, but after that I let go of shouldering that anxiety.  I felt strong in my performance and I know that I gave the best of me that day in front of the board.  While I wasn't good enough for them on that day, I know that I have so much to offer the Air Force and my fellow Airmen, and I look forward to the journey that my career will take me on.         

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Taking the AFOQT

So, you're thinking about becoming a commissioned officer?  One of the first things you'll need to do is take the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT).  The AFOQT is another standardized aptitude test, similar to the SAT or the ASVAB.  

The AFOQT can be taken a maximum of two times, with a required six month waiting period in between.  I contacted the education and training office for my wing, and made arrangements to take it on their next monthly administration.  My office administers it once monthly, during a week day.  If you're not already in the Air Force, contact your nearest AF officer recruiter, who should be able to assist you with testing information and registration.

After setting up my appointment, I began preparing by taking a practice test online.  If you're already connected to the military, you can set up an account through Military OneSource.  Under their Career & Education section, there is a link to the DoD MWR Library Resources.  One of those resources is access to Peterson's, a testing prep company for nearly every standardized test out there.  This is the site I've been using for my CLEPs, DSSTs, and now my AFOQT.  You can take a timed practice test online or download a copy to print out.  I'd recommend the online test because it'll help you understand just how blazingly fast you'll be expected to work.  After you take each section, you'll be able to go through and review your incorrect (and correct) answers and read a brief rationale behind the correct answer.  There's other test prep options out there for you, so check out your local bookstore or get to Googlin' if you're looking for something else.

There are eleven sections to the test, followed by a twelfth section of personal survey questions, for a total of 470 questions.  Yes, you read that correctly, 470 questions.  Plan for this test to take a good three hours, with only a ten minute break in between sections six and seven.  Make sure you use the bathroom before you begin testing - there's no leaving!  The sections are listed below, along with the number of questions and the time limit.  Don't quote me on that order, although it's pretty close to what I remember.

1.  Verbal Analogies - 25 questions, 8 minutes
2.  Arithmetic Reasoning - 25 questions, 29 minutes
3.  Word Knowledge - 25 questions, 5 minutes
4.  Math Knowledge - 25 questions, 22 minutes
5.  Instrument Comprehension - 20 questions, 6 minutes
6.  Block Counting - 20 questions, 3 minutes
7.  Table Reading - 40 questions, 7 minutes
8.  Aviation Information - 20 questions, 8 minutes
9.  Rotated Blocks - 15 questions, 13 minutes
10.  General Science - 20 questions, 10 minutes
11.  Hidden Figures - 15 questions, 8 minutes
12.  Personal Description Inventory - 220 questions, 40 minutes (Likert-type scale responses)

I'm thankful that I studied online prior to taking this for real.  The aviation and instrument comprehension sections are really intimidating, especially when you're seeing them for the first time and don't know a thing about flying.  As a 31 year old Airman, I'm too old to be a pilot or a navigator.  You have to commission and enter training before the age of thirty.  If your goal is to be a pilot, jump on it!  Don't waste any time!  I'm okay with not being one of those, but I still had to take those sections of the test.

The test goes extremely fast.  Did I mention that already?  It's worth mentioning again.  FAST!  Think stimulant-induced speed.  There's really not a lot of time to think about answers or to go back and check over your work.  It's all about that first, gut instinct.  I didn't even have time to fill in the bubbles completely on the Table Reading section; I had to go back and do it later.  If you have testing anxiety, you're definitely going to want to try a practice test so you know what you're getting yourself into.  Know that little yelp that Homer Simpson makes?  I'm pretty sure I almost burst out with that at the end of one of the first few sections.

I felt really strong during my math sections [naturally, as a math teacher I should] and during the Hidden Figures section (especially in comparison to my practice test).  You're not allowed to use a calculator, just scratch paper.  Get comfortable doing two-digit multiplication, as well as two- and three-digit long division.  The problems are much more difficult than just that, but that's a necessary skill.  I set up quite a few proportions as well.

The Hidden Figures, Block Counting, and Rotated Blocks sections are designed to gauge your visual-spatial skills.  It can be challenging under the time constraint.  I had to guess at the end of the Counting Blocks section.  The Table Reading challenges your visual processing speed.  You have to find a square/value given a specified X column and Y row.  You can't use a straight edge or write on the chart to help yourself out, but you can use your fingers. 

I usually do well on Verbal Analogies and Word Knowledge, but I had to guess near the end.  Hoping I didn't do too poorly on those sections.  I felt okay on the General Science section, which covers some basics in Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Astronomy.  I probably should've done better as the daughter of a science teacher.  ;)             

Knowing next to nothing about aviation, I felt better about the Instrument Comprehension portion thanks to a quick review of the practice test.  As for the Aviation Information, that was a complete wash.  The only question I remember definitely know was the four forces that act upon an airplane in flight [lift, weight, thrust, and drag].

The personal survey questions are interesting.  Many questions that you'd expect from something like that, that's trying to gauge if you're not cut out to be an officer - a team player, a collaborator, a leader, etc.  There were questions like, "Most people consider me a loner," and "I always put forth my best effort on school assignments."  You'll rate yourself as strongly disagreeing, disagreeing, neither agreeing/disagreeing, agreeing, or strongly agreeing.

My scores are supposed to be available in approximately two weeks.  I took it good ol' pencil and Scantron style, so I know it'll be a while.  I'm not entirely sure how the composite scores are assembled and what is considered a "good" score, but I'll find out soon enough!  In the meantime, these sites seem very helpful:
These were the result of a quickie Google search, and I'm sure I could find more if I kept looking.  

Best of luck to all of you who are preparing to take the AFOQT!  I'll keep you posted when I receive my results!    

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New, Now, and Next!

Just wanted to pop in here and give you a jumbled update post!  

Facebook - Here are the current BMT groups that are active on FB for those leaving for BMT.

November 2012 - Recently added!
December 2012 - Recently added!
May 2013 - Recently added!

YouTube - You've probably noticed that YT isn't the strongest area of AHE.  If you're not a big reader, you're going to want to check out That2Kool4SkoolGuy's channel on YouTube.  He's another great resource for BMT and tech school information, especially if you're interested in Security Forces.  He's another big contributor on the BMT Facebook pages and has a huge fan base.  Plus, he's a male.  I just can't answer male-specific questions.  :)  A dedicated Airman, I highly recommend his stuff!  You can find him on YouTube here and on Facebook here.

Insider's Guide to AFSCs - I can't take full credit for this idea, but I've always kicked around the idea of more guest posters and testimonials.  Eventually, AHE is going to feature another tab with a long list of AFSCs.  As I find contributors (or, as they volunteer/find me), I'm going to have them answer a standardized series of questions about their AFSC, and hopefully provide contact info for further questions.  An overview of the tech school, a "day in the life," pros/cons, and CDC information is what I'm hoping to be able to provide for you.  I'll keep you folks posted as this feature rolls out, and if you're currently in the operational AF, consider contributing as a guest poster!   

Monday, July 16, 2012

Miscellany Monday

 Ah, Monday!  I can't complain about Monday today, but I'll explain more in my rambling below.  

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters1.  I'm at home today.  Normally, I'd be in the office, clad in my blues, seeing BMTers out-process and get ready to leave.  Nope, not today.  I'm at home in shorts and a tank, enjoying some time off after a long week and UTA weekend.  Life forced me to slow down today, although it wasn't for the best of reasons.  My car's ignition has been giving me some trouble and it's become unreliable.  After a long day, it's frustrating to get into the car and wonder how long it's going to take for the key to be able to turn.  So, I dropped the car off after work yesterday and was fortunate to get the day off to handle all of that business.  This allowed me to go take our other car in for new tires and walk through our soon-to-be new home and start visualizing my stuff in there.  Still waiting to hear what's going on with my car, and I'm not thinking it's going to happen today.  I'm really hoping it's not too expensive of a fix, as I would hate to see my summer savings whittle away due to car problems.  [Update!  It's the lock cylinder, and thankfully it's going to be in the $300 range, which is totally doable!]

2.  Gotta love PCS season!  Today is trash day in our neighborhood and the house right next door had four dish pack boxes sitting out by the curb, completely full of packing paper!  They had other broken down boxes, so I salvaged those as well.  You can never have too many free boxes, especially when you have to move yourself.  I'm thankful that we won't be moving too far, so we can make multiple back and forth trips.

3.  The results for the board have not been released yet, despite my original understanding that I'd hear late Saturday or early Sunday.  I've hit that point, mentally, where I know it's out of my hands and control.  I'm going on about my business until I hear otherwise.  I definitely plan to post about the process for you all, but I want to wait until I hear the final results so that I may be as thorough as possible.

4.  Sunday morning at the UTA involved an Airman's breakfast with the 22nd AF commander, Major General Farris.  I was fortunate to be able to represent my squadron at the breakfast, which largely involved a question and answer session.  General Farris was running behind, so the poor man maybe got to eat two bites of his breakfast while we fired questions at him, including a number of budget-related questions.  He was an extremely down-to-earth, personable man.  Side note, did you know that you're not supposed to refer to a general officer as "sir?"  Instead, you call them "General" every time.  What else did I learn?  Apparently SSgts (E-5 in the AF) are considered junior enlisted.  This was news to me, since I was used to the Army standards.  You learn something new every day!

5.  My other hope/goal for today is to study for the AFOQT.  I need to buckle down after dinner (and a run) and get through another practice test.  Three days away, yikes!

Hope everyone else is having a stress-free Monday and is gearing up for a great week!

Patriot Surplus Giveaway!


I was recently contacted by Patriot Surplus, a veteran owned and operated business (owner Steve Berg is a prior service Marine) based out of Carlisle, PA, where they have a retail store.  They've been in business since 2004 and the operation began in a basement.  How can you not support that sort of American entrepreneurial spirit?  In the Air Force we never leave a fellow Airman behind, and the same sort of idea applies with supporting our veterans here at home.

Patriot Surplus' website has a very user friendly interface and is easy to navigate.  You can shop by camo pattern, which is helpful when you want branch-specific items.  They offer items for those in law enforcement, as well as for outdoor enthusiasts who need camouflage apparel and items for hunting, shooting, and camping.  There's a great selection of multicam items for those with an upcoming deployment.

Many of my BMT-bound readers select a bracelet of some sort to wear as a means of identifying others that are heading to BMT with them.  Patriot Surplus has a great selection of 550 cord for those that are making paracord bracelets for that purpose, including some pretty awesome colors.

Patriot Surplus offers free shipping on orders over $79 to the lower 48 states and APO/FPO!

Ready to start shopping?  Enter the giveaway below to win $25 to spend at Patriot Surplus on whatever your heart desires!        

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Board: A BMT Flashback

If you've been keeping up in the last two days, you've read that I'm going to be meeting the board this Saturday to compete against two other Airmen for Airman of the Quarter for our wing.  Let's just jump straight to it...

I was very, very naive about the process.

Ignorant of the process is more like it.  On the recommendation of an NCO in my office, I went and spoke with a section chief in our squadron about what to expect.  I asked for a Post-It to write down some notes.  I proceeded to fill both sides of that Post-It with detailed notes for myself, in small handwriting.

I had BMT flashback moments as my chief was telling me about the process.  Let's bullet all of my findings for you.

  • I knew service dress was the uniform for the event.  As expected, everything about my uniform needs to be perfect - "fine tooth comb perfect."  Time to fetch the tweezers, sewing scissors, lint roller, and start looking for loose threads, just like in BMT.
  • I'll report to a board of approximately 4 - 5 people.  The majority will be chiefs and the group is headed up by an officer.  I'll report to the board just as I was taught at BMT, the reporting to an office procedures.  I've learned (and done) this once in my career, at BMT.  Good thing I was able to bounce everything off to my chief, so I have it down.
  • Hello facing movements!  Probably the only time in my Reserve/operational career where I'll have to do them.  I'm confident in my drill movements, but when I brought up practicing in my heels, DH reminded me that I'd have to do an about face before I exit the room.  That's reason enough to ditch the heels and kick it old school, BMT-style, and wear low quarters (our oxford shoes) with my pantyhose.
  • Memory work...say what?!  Yes, just like in BMT, I'm expected to know the chain of command, and not just for my wing.  I have to brush up on the Air Force Reserve Command, 22 AF (which we fall under), etc.
  • It was recommended that I know the textbook definition of a Personnelist's duties.  Ok, that I understand and yes, I should probably know those anyway.
  • I have to know a few key AFIs (Air Force Instructions, official publications of rules, regulations, and procedures).  One of the biggest AFIs is 36-2903, Dress and Appearance, and I feel pretty confident about that one.  It was also suggested that I know the one for physical fitness (which happens to be 36-2905).
  • Eye contact is essential.  When responding to a question, make eye contact with the person who asked it, circle around the group, and end with the original question asker.  Good skills for any interview! 
[One day passes...]

Ok, feeling much better today, although I still know that I have to be on my game.  I have such huge supporters in my life, and in my workplace.  Roughly 70% of my points will be based upon my performance in front of the board.  The remaining points are determined by the package submitted to the board, which will be reviewed prior to my arrival.  I was a little shocked to hear that the other day, and it makes me wonder if they'll question me on things in the package [PT scores, bullets].  I mentioned this website, so if I'm questioned about it I know I'll deliver.

The biggest thing I've been told is to have confidence when in front of the board.  A deep breath or two, a quick woosah, and I know I can turn on the charm!

Wish me luck!  I'm supposed to find out the results of the board no later than Sunday morning.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

Miscellany Monday

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase lettersWhat a day, folks, what a day!  I'm glad to get back into a "normal" week, without a holiday in the middle, throwing off my game.  Of course, we have a UTA this weekend, so it's going to be non-stop with minimal downtime.  Good thing I pretty much napped away my entire weekend.  Away with the show!

1.  I leaked some of my good news already on my Facebook page, so those folks got the insider info first!  I told you a while ago that I had been made Airman of the Quarter for my squadron.  After that is the group level, and then the wing level.  For those still learning the AF lingo, the wing comprises all of the Reservists based on Peterson, which is just shy of 1500 people.  I didn't hear anything about the group level competition, but today I found out haphazardly that I'll be going before the board in service dress on Saturday...because I'm competing against two other people for the Airman of the Quarter!  I'm beyond excited and honored to have a chance to compete for such an award, a mere nine months since joining the operational Air Force.  Saturday is definitely going to be an experience, since I've never been in front of a board before, of any kind.  Heck, I've never had to wear service dress before!  My understanding is that it works somewhat like a job interview - time to shine!

2.  I've been away from my unit for a while now, since I've been doing seasoning training with the FSS (Force Support Squadron).  It's been a reminder, at times, that the grass isn't always greener.  Both squadrons have their strengths and weaknesses, and in both situations the people make the environment enjoyable.  I'll be glad to be in my home squadron, if only for a couple of days.  Flyers are a beast all their own!

3.  FIL and I are going to the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo this Thursday, for 302nd night!  Each night is dedicated to a different branch/command from the local area, and Thursday is ours.  I went a couple years ago, and most of you know where I was last year.  It'll be fun to get out and do something different this week, and support a local tradition.  My favorite event is mutton busting!  If you don't know what that is, you need to Google it, or maybe watch some YouTube videos.  ;)

4.  Most of you know that I do this, Aim High Erin, in all of its forms [Facebook, FB groups, Oovoo, Pinterest, Twitter, the blog, YouTube, etc.] because I genuinely enjoy helping people and watching them be successful.  It's the teacher in me, what can I say?  Maybe being an MTI isn't in the cards anymore, since I've decided to pursue commissioning, but I still love being able to send people off to BMT encouraged, motivated, and prepared.  I don't ask for anything in return - a heartfelt thank you is plenty for me, as is spreading the word about what we've got going on here.  All of that being said, two July shippers felt compelled to express their gratitude in monetary form.  I promised a shout-out, and vowed to pay it forward.  Trainee West, Trainee Archer, thank you for expressing your faith in me and what I'm doing here.  I can't wait to see you two on the other side, freshly minted Airmen, ready to take on the world!  Always stay motivated, move with a sense of urgency, and remember the wingman concept.  I'll see you on the other side.  ;)  [Any monetary donations will be put back into the blog, whether it be promotion or site improvements.]

5.  After a long day of being busy and getting exciting news, I hit the track and the gym for a great workout.  It was nice to see how I do on the oval track with that upcoming PT test [which, coincidentally, is on our anniversary date].  After a good, hard workout, I walked out to the car, checked my phone, and saw an email I'd been waiting for (and kind of given up on).  We're going to be homeowners.  It's not a traditional transaction, which is why I hesitated even mentioning it, but in a few months, it will be ours.  It's been a long time coming, and coincidentally, it's the first house we looked at when we started this process a few months ago.  It'll give us everything we've been wanting - a half acre of land for all sorts of "man projects," a smaller house that's manageable for cleaning, and an upgraded kitchen to my specifications.  Did I mention that it has a flagpole out front?  I've always wanted one of those!