Monday, October 29, 2012

Operational Readiness

"We interrupt this ORI for a photo opp..."
Much has been going on in my Wing lately that I haven't discussed online, due to the sensitive nature of the work.  Sure, you could've figured it out if you buzzed around online, but better to wait and tell you after the fact.

This last weekend we finished up our Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI).  Can you hear the big sigh of relief from everyone on Peterson?  You should!  We've been working up for this for an entire year now!  Let me backtrack for everyone who may be new to the Air Force...


In a nutshell, the ORE/ORI is BMT's BEAST on a much grander scale and with more at stake.  At BMT, if you don't succeed while at BEAST, there's no penalty against you.  It's a one shot deal, and you're competing against other Zones for a title that won't mean anything once you leave BMT.  An ORI is judged by Inspector Generals and various Colonels to determine your Wing's readiness to deploy.  Obviously, if you're not ready to deploy, you're not able to fulfill your Air Force mission.  No one wants that stigma, no one wants that top-down scrutiny.


The ORE/ORI is made up of "players" who are the primary participants, as well as alternates who have to go through the same preparation and training in case they must step in and go on the "deployment."  All members of the Wing were expected to inform their employers in advance of this time period that we'd be busy, and we took our Annual Tour (AT) during time.  Even if we weren't a primary or an alternate, our support was expected at the home station, which is why I was on orders for almost two weeks.  As a military service member and a Reservist, my employer is legally obligated to release me and preserve my job when I'm away serving.  Thus, I took a little break from the students and donned my ABUs!  Plus, I had been personally requested to participate as an assistant to our Chief of Installation Personnel Readiness (IPR).



Even PDF members need to make drive-thru runs!
The IPR office does a host of classified tasks and knows the whereabouts of all deployed members at all time.  Over the period I worked with them, we prepared briefs for our primaries and alternates, managing that event, and controlling the entrance to only those with the appropriate security clearance.  When our members deployed, we prepared their NATO and deployment orders, briefed them a few more times, and took accountability countless times.  We were a tight knit group, spending tons of quality time together. 

During the both the ORE and the ORI I worked on the Personnel Deployment Function (PDF) line, which out-processes and in-processes deploying members.  While I didn't work the PDF line for deployers this time, I did get to work the reception line!  Reception is my favorite part, one I referenced back in this blog post.  One of the biggest responsibilities of my job as a Personnelist is accountability.  During reception I get to meet the planes on the flight line, retrieve the manifest documents that detail the members on board the plane, as well as pick up crew orders and flight orders.  For someone typically cooped up in an office, you can imagine that it's pretty exciting for me.  There's just something amazing about being out there that reassures me that I made the right decision when enlisting in the Air Force.


It's been a busy month, to say the least.  I've been on duty for a total of fourteen days so far, and I'm heading back again this weekend for the regular UTA.  I've closed on a house, prepared my commissioning packet, and put my new home together, all while entering my second trimester!  Thankfully, my days of being without DH are coming to a close very quickly.  Many, many good things happening in my life right now and I feel exceptionally blessed!


[Side note: I do not know the status of our ORI at this point, if we "passed" or not.  A failure would mean having to repeat the process in six months, which no one wants to do.]

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Parenting and Privilege

A good Air Force blogger friend, Mrs. H, brought this "current event" to my awareness tonight, and as a pregnant Airman, I feel obligated to weigh in.

Here's a quick background story:
  • Rebecca Edmonds, life-long Navy brat, decides she wants to serve and follows in the family footsteps.
  • Edmonds, a practicing Catholic, applies for a ROTC scholarship, signs contracts and accepts $92k in scholarship money, and attends the Catholic university Marquette.
  • Edmonds signed a contract and received no less than eight medical briefs reminding her that she needs to immediately notify her command of a change in her medical status.
  • Thirteen weeks before commissioning, Edmonds discovers she's pregnant.
  • Unmarried Edmonds decides to keep her baby and is separated from the process, and now has to repay the $92k.

Before I weigh in on this particular story, let me share something with my single moms out there - if you are a single parent, you cannot serve on active duty.  The Reserves and Guard are different.  I had a number of single mothers in my flight at BMT, but that is because we were mainly Guard and Reserve.  There are opportunities for single mothers to serve in the Air Force.  Granted, I'm assuming that if you're a single mother there may be opportunities to switch to active duty in the future if you marry, but that is something only your recruiter can confirm.  As a Reservist, you could potentially get an ART (Active Reserve Technician) position where you'd work a government job in a squadron as a full-time employee, so you could work in the Air Force full-time.  Bottom line, Edmonds could serve her country as an officer in the Air Force, although she wouldn't be able to do so on active duty as long as she's a single parent.

The article presents this story in a very skewed fashion, not surprisingly.  I think this is a case of a girl from a privileged family thinking the rules didn't apply to her.  I'm making the assumption that her family is fairly well-to-do, given her dad's career as a Naval officer (not to mention the fact that they've hired a military attorney to fight this dismissal).  Like I mentioned before, there were single mothers in my flight at BMT and they knew that active duty wasn't an option due to their marital status.  This is not shocking, and clearly Edmonds knew the same based on the information presented in the article where she kept hesitating to tell her leadership.  The Air Force has made a blanket policy that single mothers (and I'm assuming single parents with custodial rights in general) can't serve on active duty, period.  Regardless of whether or not you have a supportive family that's planning to drop everything if you deploy, it's a no-no.  There have been too many issues in the past with service members who've had family care plans fall apart, who then go AWOL or refuse to deploy.  I completely understand why a blanket policy helps cover our butts.

When a young adult accepts a ROTC scholarship or an appointment to the Air Force Academy, they make the commitment to repay that scholarship money by serving a specified number of years.  [Cadets at the Academy must be single, childfree, and under the age of 23.]  My brother had to make the same agreement when he went that route.  If you fail to fulfill the contractual agreement, you have to repay the money.  Edmonds clearly dismissed the seriousness of her contract and the eight medical briefs she received.  I firmly believe that if she was that strong in her faith that she didn't believe in birth control or abortion, she shouldn't have been having sex with her boyfriend.  I question her priorities and motivation.  If I were thirteen weeks away from finishing my degree and commissioning, I wouldn't be jeopardizing my future by having unprotected sex.  I would be chomping at the bit to get my butter bars and learn of my first duty station.

Edmonds chose to keep her baby, as a single mother.  She made a choice that negated another.  She chose motherhood over commissioning as an active duty officer.  She can't have it all, just like I can't have it all, nor could the single mothers in my flight.  While I waited in the DEP program, I took extreme precautions to not get pregnant, knowing that it would be a deal-breaker for me and my enlistment.  That's what responsible adults do.  

A friend of Mrs. H's put it best.  It boils down to the Air Force Core Value of Service Before Self.  Apparently Edmonds didn't realize that we take our Core Values pretty seriously.  If you can't live them, you can't lead by example.  I'm not even suggesting that she should've gotten an abortion here.  She chose sexual gratification over active duty service.  Clearly her military service wasn't her top priority and source of motivation.

[The opinions expressed within this post are my own, and do not reflect the position of the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, or the Department of Defense.  If you have questions about your own eligibility for service, please contact your nearest recruiter.]

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

You're pregnant, now what?

[The experiences, policies, and procedures I share within this post are mine and my Wing's.  Your experience and requirements may differ.  Speak with your leadership to clarify policies.]

I found out I was pregnant a couple weeks before my September UTA, and had my first doctor's appointment that confirmed it officially just days before.  While my intent was to wait for the end of the first trimester to tell the masses, I knew that just wasn't going to happen with my Air Force family.  Keep this in mind when you go into your squadron for the first time after having your medical provider confirm that you are indeed pregnant - you will need to tell your leadership as soon as possible.  My Wing's policy states that you must immediately notify your commander, supervisor, and the medical squadron.  My supervisor was a no-brainer (more on that in a sec), but telling the commander was somewhat awkward.  "Sir, I'm required to tell you that I'm knocked up."  I work in an office, so it's not a huge change in my everyday duties.  

Letting your chain of command know promptly is essential to your safety and the safety of your baby.  You'll need to be put on a medical profile stating that you have a "Duty Limiting Condition."

Prior to my UTA, I called my supervisor and informed her of my pregnancy, asking about my next steps.  She let me know that I needed to report to the clinic with documentation from my civilian doctor verifying my pregnancy.  Fortunately, my doctor was able to fax me a quick note that indicated that I was receiving prenatal care, along with my expected due date.

Waiting at the clinic took a while that morning, as I was low on the priority list in relation to other Airmen who were there for annual physicals.  When I finally got in, it was strictly a verification of my documentation from the doctor, a briefing on the Wing's policies, and the issuance of my profile.  They didn't do a separate medical examination or make me take a pregnancy test.

Here's the nuts and bolts from my brief:

  • I can keep attending drill (although in a restricted status) up until my 34th week of pregnancy.  If I want to continue after that, I must live within 50 miles of my duty station [I do], and I must have support from my commander, my doctor, and if I want to do so.
  • A military doctor can restrict me from participating if deemed appropriate.
  • I have to provide a letter from my medical provider "summarizing [my] current health, physical restrictions and expected date of delivery" as soon as possible and every 60 days after the fact to determine if I'm still fit to serve.
  • If I want to perform duties in the continental United States (CONUS) away from my home station, I have to have clearance from a military doctor.  I must also provide a statement from my civilian doctor approving travel.
  • If I go into labor during a UTA, I'll be transferred to a civilian hospital.  Pregnancy will not prompt a Line of Duty (LOD) determination - that's where the military is responsible for your military care because you "hurt" yourself in the line of duty.  Basically, I need to make sure I have my own insurance.
  • After giving birth, I can come back to duty with an approval note from my doctor and after being cleared by the military doctor.
I signed off indicating my understanding of the above items and a letter was given to me to provide to my supervisor.  The next part was my profile, AF Form 469, which took a bit to generate.  It lays out duty restrictions and mobility restrictions.  Here's what it spells out for me:

  1. No standing/marching longer than 15 minutes.
  2. The inactivated flu vaccine [shot, not the spray] is recommended.  I can't get a live virus immunization without approval from my doctor.
  3. My duty hours may be limited by my doctor.  At 28 weeks, I am encouraged to work an 8 hour shift, but it's not mandatory.
  4. I'm excused from wearing the Chemical Warfare Defense Ensemble [No MOPP gear, whoo hoo!]  I don't have to wear a gas mask after 20 weeks or do a gas mask confidence test.  I don't have to wear/carry a flak vest or web belt.
  5. After 20 weeks, I can wear closed toed, plain, soft-soled black shoes instead of boots.  If I was in an environment that required it, they could be steel toed.
  6. No carrying, lifting, pushing/pulling anything heavier than 25 pounds after 20 weeks.
  7. I'm exempt from mobility during my profile and for six months after my release date.
  8. I have PCS/TDY restrictions.
  9. My PT test is deferred for six months after my profile expires.  I can continue to participate in unit fitness programs unless my doctor says otherwise.  [I won't test again until 18 October.]
  10. I may carry a firearm if my duty requires it up to 5 months, but I have to be excused from firing range practice and duties while I'm on profile.
  11. I'm disqualified from flying duties and other special duty operators.
  12. I have to avoid ladders or working at heights after 13 weeks.
That was my day on duty as a newly pregnant Airman.  TONS of information and much more than I expected.  I quickly learned it was going to be too difficult to hide my news from everyone.  Sitting in the clinic that long, getting a profile, yet looking totally healthy and fine?  I knew questions would come up quickly.  Not to mention, I work in the office where we do clothing issue, so I'd need to speak up when it came time to ask for my maternity uniforms.  Fortunately, I've made it through my first trimester successfully!

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Own Force Management

Oh, hello blog reading friends!  ;)  I've been telling you half truths for a while now, and it's finally time to come clean!

If you follow along on the AHE Facebook page, you saw my big announcement this last Friday.  This wasn't a recent discovery, but something that's been kept under wraps for a while now.  Remember that trip to Sheppard AFB to visit DH for our 5th anniversary?  Um, yeah...

Needless to say, we've spawned a Super Air Force Baby!  I joke that when we're doing that future summer vacation of "The Great Tour of Air Force Bases in America," we'll be able to show the little tyke the room in lodging where the magic happened.  Wouldn't every child appreciate that knowledge?!  ;)

The above photo is from our first ultrasound, when I was eight weeks along.  I'm currently thirteen weeks and four days, and we're due April 18th.  I also joke that DH has artfully dodged the entire first trimester, since he's been away at tech school, although I know that he'd much rather be home with me. I should be at about seventeen weeks by the time he's home.  Fortunately, it's been a fairly smooth trimester for me, which I'm thankful for since I've had to manage a move, renovations, teaching full-time, and putting in extra hours on top of my pregnancy needs.

Lest you fear that this blog will move away from its central focus and suddenly revolve around my future spawn, I bring you "Enlisted and Expecting," a new series that will highlight aspects of my pregnancy/parenting experience as it relates to my service in the Air Force.  

In the meantime, I'm still trying to get settled in my home life so that I can bring you more content.  That's always the goal.  I'm currently on orders, with a purpose that will be discussed upon their completion.  I am still pressing forward with my commissioning package, and again, I'll update you on that as well.

Thank you for your continued patience and support of AHE!