Sunday, August 26, 2012

Seasoning Training

Thanks for everyone's patience when it comes to posts on the blog lately.  The first few weeks of school are always the roughest, and I'm completely bogged down with meetings lately.  Add a new home purchase [more on that later], renovations to oversee, and a husband out of state and you have a very busy me!

This summer I finished up my Seasoning Training, which is something exclusive to Air Force Reservists.  I would assume that the Air National Guard has something similar, although they may not call it by the same name.  I've also heard other Reservists refer to this training as a "Prog Tour," which I'm assuming is short for "progression."  The intent of seasoning training is to help Airmen upgrade to their 5-skill level by giving them on the job training in their AFSC.  When you graduate technical training, you'll be a 3-skill level in your AFSC, the Apprentice Level.  The 5-skill level is the Journeyman level and is required before you become an NCO.  

Seasoning training was established to allow Reservists the uninterrupted training time they need to make progress in their career field and in their training.  The USAFR recognizes that when you come back from tech school you need to apply your newly acquired skills and learn the day-to-day operating procedures of your squadron.  This is difficult to accomplish exclusively during UTA (drill) weekends, hence seasoning training.

Upon returning from technical training, you'll have a year to complete seasoning training.  The funding for seasoning is separate from your Wing's budget, so don't be discouraged if you hear about budget woes when you get back to your duty station.  

Your Education and Training office will provide you with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) about seasoning training and discuss the duration of your training.  Each AFSC has a specific length of time that they're given for seasoning training.  As a Personnelist, I was given ninety days.  If you are curious about the length of your training, contact your Education and Training office directly.  Other AFSCs can have training that is significantly longer.  I believe my husband's is in the neighborhood of 160+ days.  

Depending on your Wing's policies, you may be able to delay the start of your seasoning training and specify a start date for your training.  I opted to wait until my summer vacation from school to do my seasoning training.  While I was given ninety days of training, I was not able to take the full amount (due to the school year), and I only did sixty-seven.  This was permissible in my Wing.  I would've liked to have taken the full ninety days, but you may not always have the option (or the ability) to split up your training.

Seasoning training is not required, although it is definitely to your benefit.  If you don't have a civilian job to return to after tech, I'd highly recommend that you start seasoning training right away.  While you're on seasoning training you'll receive active duty pay and benefits, including BAH, BAS, and health care.  [Note that because you receive BAS, you won't be eligible to eat in the DFAC for free.  I had to pay each time I ate there.]  If you don't live in the commuting area, they'll put you in lodging.

Seasoning training will also help you progress and earn your 5-level faster than those who opt not to do the training, which is the greatest benefit.  In order to complete upgrade training, you have a beefy checklist of items that need to be mastered and signed off by your supervisor.  This is most easily done during seasoning training.  You'll also get to know those in your squadron and do invaluable networking.

Regardless of how quickly you finish your training and get your checklist signed off, you may have to wait for "Time in Training."  For my Wing and AFSC, this is a year.  While I was able to finish my checklist and training back in early August, I won't officially be a 5-level Personnelist until 14 September, which is a year after my return from tech school.

Hope this information helps you Reservists out there, and further explains how you'll learn your job once in the operational Air Force!  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Core Values in the Classroom


I posted this photo already for all of the fans of my FB page, but I had to share it here as well!  Tomorrow marks the end of my first full week back at school.  As I anticipated, it's hectic, it's chaotic, it's disorganized, etc., but I've never doubted that it's where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing.  I love that being a Reservist allows me to fulfill both of my dreams, and sometimes those two worlds collide!

This year I decided to incorporate the Air Force Core Values into my classroom rules, for lack of better words.  Rather than rambling on and telling the students what they can't do, I put the abbreviated version of the Core Values on the wall.  I spent the first day of school telling them about myself, about being in the Air Force Reserve, and about how important living these Core Values is to me.  After that, I had them tell me about their summer within a framework of these values.  This summer, how did you demonstrate your integrity?  How did someone serve your needs before their own?  How did you practice service before self?  How did you show your personal excellence?  It was a successful activity, and I really think it set a great tone for the school year.  No one fussed, grumbled or whined about the activity.  I love that it made them think of all of the good they've done, and how we are all capable of living these values.  I stressed that none of us is perfect, and that we're all going to be working towards improving in these areas.

So much of how I want my students to behave is wrapped up in these values.  I want them to have integrity, and to always do the right thing and act the right way toward those in our class, even if it's someone they don't care for.  I want them to put the needs of others before themselves.  Under the category of service, I discussed respecting each other and each other's belongings.  As for excellence, I wanted them to know that despite the unique challenges they all face (I teach special education, moderate needs), we should all strive to be and do our best, and that's all I ask of them, ultimately.

I have great hopes for my students this year.  I've seen the impact that structure, patience, and encouragement can provide for a struggling learning.  But, if they should need that gentle reminder, I'm there to point to the Core Values on the wall and remind them to Aim High!  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Staying Afloat!

[Source]
Just a quick message to let you all know that I am still here and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, although it's still in the distance.

The first few weeks of school call for survival mode.  What can I get done to get through the days?  There's so much to do, in terms of organization, setting up classroom procedures, getting to know students, informing general education teachers of my students' IEP accommodations, etc.  It's daunting, and I've been putting in tons of extra hours.
  
Needless to say, it doesn't leave me much time  for anything.  I'm trying to squeeze in some relaxation time, some time to get back into a fitness routine, as well as normal household chores and responsibilities.  My prep period used to be attached to lunch, and now it's not, which has been a culture shock.  I can barely get through a few items in my lunch bag, which I suppose isn't a horrible thing.  Finding time to use the restroom or fill up my water bottle is a luxury.  My classes are larger than you'd ever want a pullout special education class to be - fifteen, seventeen, twenty kids?!  It's madness, to say the least.  I'm thankful that I have the years of experience to handle it all.  If I were a newer teacher, I'd have a breakdown already.

I'm keeping the faith though, and slowly getting there.  Day by day, week by week, that's how we'll get through.  In the meantime, I'm really looking forward to a BMT friend of mine coming to visit for the weekend, so we can attend the wedding of a tech school friend of ours!  It's going to be a reunion that's been almost a year in the making!  Pictures to come, I promise!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

PT Test Results

If you've been keeping up the last couple of days, you know I took my first operational PT test the other day (and subsequently posted my results on my Facebook page).  I was nervous and anxious because I didn't know the procedures and because I really wanted to score above a 90.  I'd been working out all summer, eating well, and avoiding sweets in preparation for this final test of summer.

The morning of my test, I showed up nice and early.  The testing area at my base is called the "Fitness Assessment Cell (FAC)" and it's located near the Health and Wellness Center (HAWC).  Upon arriving, I checked in and filled out two forms that they'd use to tally my scores.  We waited for the other participants to arrive and fill out their scores.  When the time came, the FAC staff checked our IDs (don't be that person who leaves their ID in the car) and began taking our height and weight measurements.  After height and weight, our waists were taped by a member of the same gender in a closed-door office.  They took three measurements and then averaged the scores.  They felt around for your natural waist, just below your ribs.

After everyone's measurements were taken, we watched an informational video which was required viewing to be assessed.  The video showed proper and improper forms for the pushups and sit-ups.  After that, we went down to the aerobics room, which was equipped with sit-up bars on the floor.   Each bar was numbered and there was a coordinating number further down on the floor.  We partnered up with a same-sex Airman who'd count our reps as we traded off.  

We started immediately with pushups, so it was nice to get those out of the way.  The FAC staff member watched the clock and gave us warnings at 30 seconds and 15 seconds.  Our partner counted each rep out loud, and a second FAC staff member reminded us to count loudly.  That second staff member was there to tell you if a rep didn't count, but he never seemed to wander down our way.  Either that or we didn't have any issues with our reps!  After time was called, the counting partner would take the sheet and tell the FAC staff member how many reps were completed so it could be recorded.

After pushups, we switched to sit-ups and repeated the same process.  We did have a mat underneath our butts/backs, and we used the sit-up bars.  The big difference from this and BMT is that we started in the down position, rather than up.  

We had a bit of time to hydrate after completing pushups and sit-ups, but we definitely didn't have the down time that I anticipated before we hit the track for the run.  We wore numbered bibs so they could identify us on the track.  Sunglasses and iPods were allowed for the run, and a (non-testing) pacer is allowed, if you need (and find) one.  There wasn't time to get them between the strength portion and the run, so I grabbed them early on.  I didn't mention it earlier, but any combination of the PT uniform is allowed for testing.  We were given time to warm up prior to the run, and we were asked if anyone needed to take a warm-up lap.  There was a timing clock at the finish line, similar to BMT, and a FAC staff member stood down there with the official stopwatch.  Another FAC staff member told us the current lap we'd finished as we ran around.       

After the run was completed, we went back to the FAC office.  We were called over individually to confirm our scores and sign the bottom of the form to indicate that those were correct to the best of our knowledge/experience.  They didn't total up my points there in the office, but the PT charts were on the wall, so I guesstimated my score.  The official scores were posted on the PT score management system website within a couple hours of completing my test.

So, how'd I do?  I got a 96.5!  Here's my breakdown:
Waist - 28.5 (maxed).
Pushups - 32!  I shocked myself!
Sit-ups - 45 (maxed).
Run - 12:19 (after the altitude adjustment).  I wasn't super pleased with my run, but the difference is so minimal due to the large number of points the run is given.

I can't tell you how thankful I was to be done with my first PT test!  I definitely feel more comfortable now that I understand the process, and I'm ecstatic that I did so well and secured my "Excellent" rating. I'm taking a few days off, but I'll start back up with my every other day running schedule.  I'd like to maintain the level of fitness I've worked toward, as best as possible, and start training for the Air Force Marathon in 2013!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Happy 5th Anniversary!


Five years ago today, I drove 1690 miles from California to Missouri, to see DH for the first time in ten weeks.  He had completed Basic Combat Training (BCT) for the Army and was about to graduate.  I whisked him away on Family Day and we headed to the courthouse, where I had meticulously researched and planned everything that would be needed to seal the deal.  After a prompt licensing process, we headed out back and were married underneath a gazebo in the hot summer sun, witnessed by my father, his wife, DH's father, and DH's battle buddy.  I wore a cream-colored sundress I had found, he wore his Class As.  I carried a bouquet of green hydrangeas and white roses.

Afterward, we headed immediately to the DEERS office to get me into the system as a dependent and get my first military ID card.  Doesn't seem particularly romantic, but it worked out in our favor since he didn't have any free time the next day.  I think they were surprised that I had all of the required documents at the ready.

Later that evening, we went to dinner at a local steakhouse and enjoyed a small white-on-white wedding cake, topped with more hydrangea blossoms.  There was no wedding night, as we had to drop him back off at the barracks each night, nor was there a honeymoon as he immediately began Advanced Individual Training (AIT).

It may not have been the wedding that most women fantasize about, but it was absolutely perfect for us.  Both of us have been married before, so we didn't need all of the pomp and circumstance.  Having such a small, intimate wedding allowed me to focus on the true meaning of our commitment and love for each other, rather than getting caught up with the minutia and logistics of a large production.

These last five years haven't been easy, as you can imagine, with both of our commitments to service.  We share a commitment to our country and a commitment to each other.  We've made countless personal sacrifices, navigated hills and valleys, and have made it out on top.  It's never been easy, but it's always been worth it.  Here's to a lifetime of love with my best wingman!  <3

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My First [Operational] PT Test

[Source]
This is it, it's go time!  Tomorrow morning at 0700 MDT, I'll be taking my first PT test in the operational Air Force.  Most people in my office take a look at me and tell me I'll be fine.  I appreciate their vote of confidence, but you know me - I'm not gunning for a passing score, I'm shooting for a 90+.  A 90 or higher on your PT test allows you to test only once a year, versus once every six months.  This was a concern of mine, until finding out recently that as a Reservist, we only test once a year, period.  Color me surprised!  [Misinformation that was recently debunked.]  Regardless, I'd rather be stamped "Excellent" than "Satisfactory" on my records.

Your PT score isn't just a fleeting moment in your AF career.  When you put in a package for just about anything, a copy of your last PT results will be in there.  When I was up for the Airman of the Quarter board, a copy of my PT scores were in there.  When I recently processed packages of Lieutenant Colonels who were up for the Colonel boards, a copy of their PT scores were in there.  Want to go to a special school?  A current, passing PT score may be required.  DH had to take one as soon as he switched to the Reserves, so he could go to tech school.  Bottom line, that number's going to get looked at over and over again.  When I go before the commissioning board this fall/winter, I want them to see an Excellent score.  I want them to have faith when they select me to attend OTS.

So, despite the fact that I run approximately every other day and hit the gym every workday, I'm still nervous.  I'm a book smart person.  Give me a standardized test and I flourish.  Give me something else, another high stakes test that I can't reason my way out of (like my motorcycle licensing test or qualifying on my weapon) and I get anxious.  At this point, I'm really ready to get this test over with.  I'm thankful that, at the age of 31, I fall into the next testing bracket.  All of the time I spend running really pays off, and I'm hoping to make up for my deficiencies in other areas (*cough* pushups *cough*) with my run.  I should be able to max the waist measurement, and I'm hoping I can max the sit-ups.  Not knowing the procedures on testing day also makes me nervous.  I've tried to get as much info as I can from others who've tested already.  Thank goodness this isn't like BMT - I hear I'll get a ten minute break or so in between the pushups/sit-ups and the run.  That'll be nice to get my heart rate back down where it should be.  I've also been running on the track I'll test on, to help reduce testing anxiety when I hit that track.  My practice runs have been strong, and I'm really hoping to repeat those performances tomorrow.

By 0800 tomorrow, I'll be done.  It's going to be a big weight off my shoulders and I look forward to being able to have that bag of M&Ms that's been sitting in my fridge, as well as enjoying some sweets these last few days of summer.  It's woosah time, it's hydrating time, it's go time!