Friday, January 31, 2014

3 Years = Meritorious Service

Third time's a charm!  Well, it's a medal anyway.

Today is the third anniversary of my enlistment in the Air Force Reserve - my Air Force birthday!  It means an increase of $15.20 for each drill weekend.  Seems like peanuts, but we're moving forward and that's always a good thing, right?  

I only recently was reminded that this birthday also means that I will receive the Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal, for three continuous years of service in the Air Force Reserve.  As a former Marine, DH tends to laugh at how easily ribbons and medals are handed out in the other branches, but that's how we do things in the Air Force, so who am I to judge?  In a way, I understand where he's coming from.  I haven't "done" anything, at least nothing that feels special or extraordinary.  I haven't fulfilled my enlistment contract yet, so yes, I did sign up for this.  I've just done my job for the last three years.  I've shown up.  Maybe this ribbon seems like a "Everyone Gets A Trophy!" occasion for others, but I've also watched those around me opt to go into the Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR) left and right, leaving behind their military careers.  It's not easy, balancing family, career, and service, but for me it's more than worth it to serve my country.  We make it work and I see the value in continuing my service, despite the sacrifice.

So, I'll wear my new medal proudly and pat myself on the back for the three year milestone I've hit today.  Only seventeen to go!

In all seriousness, my personal Facebook status read as follows: "Three years ago today I stepped out of my comfort zone with the belief of "Better Late Than Never" in terms of goal achievement.  I never wanted to look back and wonder if I could have served my country, like all of the noble and honorable people in my life.  So I did it, at age 30.  It was one of the best decisions I could've ever made for myself and I would do it again in a heartbeat."  My message is simple, but heartfelt.  Whatever brings you to that recruiter's office, I hope that you, too, are filled with the same enthusiasm on day 1095 (hell, 7300!) as you are on day 1.     

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

17 Jan 14 Uniform Updates!

Future Airman Aunie of Aunie Sauce recently contacted me about the changes to 36-2903 and how that would affect her down at BMT.  Say what?  She beat me to it!  Thanks to Aunie for holding me accountable!  

What am I talking about?  Well, Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of AF Personnel, was updated on 17 January 2014 and includes changes that may affect you at BMT!  Take it from me and do yourselves a favor - download AFI 36-2903 to your iPad or tablet of your preference for easy reference.  Sounds super moto/geeky, but it's worth it.  When I'm putting together my uniform for a blues inspection or a formal event, it makes it really easy to pull it up on my iPad while I'm using my ruler to perfectly align my ribbon rack.  Get in the habit of getting really, really picky about how perfect you look in uniform.  Trust me, it'll serve you well for years to come.  

Anyway, let's get to it!  I'm only highlighting the biggest changes that could affect you while at BMT and tech school.  **Please keep in mind that training environments tend to be more strict than in the operational Air Force.**  You may be held to higher standards by your MTI or squadron commander. Once you get to tech school, the rules lighten up a bit, and you'll really get to live these rules (and new freedoms) once you're permanent party.

Physical Training Uniform (PTU) Footwear

7.1.6. Footwear. Socks. Socks are mandatory. Socks will be white or black and may have small

trademark logos. Athletic style shoes. Athletic style shoes are mandatory. There are no restrictions on the color of the athletic shoes.
Authorized?  Yes.  Smart?  Debatable.  [Source]

This is a biggie, folks!  I don't expect BMT to start issuing you black socks for PT gear, but it's nice to know that you have that option now for the future, if you prefer black socks.  Just earlier this month when I was taking my test, I was reminded by my supervisor that my socks had to be white or I would not be allowed to test. 

As for athletic shoes, this should hopefully put many of you at ease and minimize the number of "Are these shoes ok?" questions that start flying around the web.  Use some common sense though.  BMT is probably not the time to debut these fabulous New Balance 890V3s.  Save your loudest pair of kicks for that half marathon when you come home, and find a more subdued pair in the meantime.  Remember that even though they might be authorized, you're not going to want the attention that they bring to you by the MTIs.  Be smart.  Color is fine, but don't go overboard.

Cell Phones

6.3.3. Handheld Electronic Devices. Handheld electronic devices are small electronic equipment such as cellular phones (personal or official), MP3 or similar players, radio, or hands-free devices (e.g. Bluetooth). Handheld electronic devices, if worn on the belt/waistband, or clipped to a purse will be plain black, silver, dark blue, or gray. Handheld electronic devices that are not worn on the belt/waistband/or clipped to a purse can be any color. Holster and other storage devices used to attach handheld electronic devices to the uniform or purse will be plain black, silver, dark blue, or gray. One handheld electronic device may be attached to a belt/waistband on either side or clipped to a purse.

This may or may not affect you at tech school, depending on the rules enforced by your squadron.  This definitely won't apply to you while at BMT.  While at Keesler (back in 2011), we were not allowed to have our phone on our person during the duty day.  The biggest change here is that if you're not wearing your cell phone on your waistband or visible on a purse, then the case can be any color.  If your phone is visible, you must adhere to the limitations of the case color as described above.  Pretty simple to follow.

If you want read about the other changes to the AFI, which won't likely affect you until you become permanent party, you can read a concise description here.   

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Palace Chase - AD to ANG

"Force Shaping" is a dirty little pair of words in the Air Force.  If you haven't heard it before, it's the nicely worded phrase for "someone's going to get fired."  Well, maybe that's a little extreme, but it's the term coined to describe how they thin the herd, typically amongst the active duty Airmen.  It happens in a variety of ways, either voluntary (retirements, people getting out of the military by choice) or involuntary (people being discharged).  How can you be proactive during this time of instability, if you think you're on the chopping block but you still want to serve?  Let's welcome back Dina from Blueberries and Bokeh, who's here to tell us about the Palace Chase program after the jump!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Postpartum PT, Round Two!

Aiming high and making a comeback!  Was that too much of a tip-off about the subject of this post?  Oh well, if you've been following me on my Twitter account, you probably already knew the results.

Everything has been building up to this weekend's UTA and my PT retest.  I was anxious about this one, understandably, since so much was riding on my results.  I couldn't proceed with my OTS package without a passing fit test score.  So many members of the Air Force are being discharged due to PT failures (albeit, not after the second one, at least not that I've heard).  I am definitely not ready to leave the Air Force behind - heck, I have seventeen more years to go!  ;)

Back in November, I shared with you the result of my first PT test failure, my first test after having DD.  Since that time, I slowly got back into making an effort to work out, or at least do something physical in preparation for my PT test.  Every other day I would do sit-ups and pushups in my daughter's room after I put her to bed.  I would do at least my minimums (as a 33 year old female) - 14 pushups and 29 sit-ups.  By the time the test came, I felt confident that I could at least do the minimums.  Over winter break I did seven days of Annual Training, and all but one of those days I hit  the gym, alternating between running and strength training.

All of that being said, the night before and the morning of my test I was really nervous.  I was ready to get it over with.  So, SO ready.  I headed over to the Fitness Assessment Cell (FAC) nice and early to take some deep breaths and get in the zone.  We started right away with height, weight, and measurements.  How did I fare?

Weight: 171 lbs [Seriously?!  12 lbs lower than last time?!  Yes!]
Height: 71 inches
Waist: 30.5 inches [I was surprised by this one, since she was measuring around the peak of my "baby muffin."]
Pushups: 23
Sit-Ups: 40 [Yes!  I doubled my total from last time!]
Run: 13:54, adjusted due to altitude to 13:37

The FAC staff won't tell you your total score.  You sign off on your sheet, but must either calculate the score on your own or look back online later once they've entered it.  When I was trying to get a quick calculation on my own later, I was shocked to realize that, holy crap, I think I may have gotten a 90!  Sure enough, my final score was a 91.20!  If that's not reason to celebrate, I don't know what is!  Going from an unsatisfactory to an excellent after having a baby?  Game on!  Quick recap - a score below 75 is a failure (as well as if you don't meet the minimums in each category), between 75 and 90 is a satisfactory and requires a retest in six months, and a score above a 90 is an excellent and doesn't require a retest for another year.

Needless to say, I pigged out at lunch.  What you don't see on my DFAC tray is the ice cream sandwich behind that red sports drink and the second cookie.  ;)  Yes, yes I did!  And I deserved it!

The new strategy I tried for this test?  Stopping short of the minute time limit during the pushups and sit-ups.  I had heard it from someone else, the idea that you should figure out on your charts when it's "not worth it" it to proceed further because of the point values, for the sake of saving your energy.  After 23 pushups and 40 sit-ups for me, it required too many more repetitions to get the next point, so I just stopped and saved my energy.  Let me warn you - don't try this strategy at BMT.  This is more one for the operational AF, since the MTIs will be yelling at you if you stop short versus giving it your all until the very end.

Hope you had a great weekend!  Keep positive when thinking about your PT tests - if I can do it, you can do it!  Take time to encourage each other too.  During each step of the way, I tried to keep my wingmen motivated to meet their own goals.  We all need our cheerleading sections!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Enlisted on FOX

Source: Enlisted on FOX
When the promotions team from the new FOX show Enlisted reached out to me to check out their new show, I jumped at the opportunity.  I'd seen a preview or two on the TV, and had a good feel for what to expect.  I finally had the opportunity over my winter break to sit down and watch four uncut, preliminary episodes, including the pilot.  The show started a bit slow for me, as I was wrangling my daughter, but as I kept at it I found that I really enjoyed it.  What was even more surprising was that DH was just as transfixed by the program, which had him laughing through numerous comedic moments.  Whoa there!  My husband is a hard man to please when it comes to military-based shows, being a veteran of three branches of service.  Media representations of the military that fall short annoy him, and he can't see past inaccuracies to buy into the plot, no matter how well written.  He used to roll his eyes and make negative comments when I would settle in with Army Wives on the DVR.

Enlisted is different, much in the way that M.A.S.H. or Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. were different.  They're military shows, yes, but the show's themes emerge not through the portrayal of military conflict, but the interaction and relationships of their characters.  They're friends, family, and they also happen to be soldiers.  We see mentorships, leaders struggling with their roles, friendships forming, and relationships blooming, all in the context of a military setting.

The show has apparently received some negative feedback, although I haven't seen any of it online.  Some people are complaining about inaccuracies like haircuts out of regulation, overweight soldiers, grooming standards, etc.  Really, folks?  What'd you expect?  It's a comedy.  Not to say that the Enlisted team didn't receive military advisement.  To appease the nay-sayers, they're doing a "Spot Our Snafus" contest, so go ahead and take notes while you watch - pick it apart!

As for those that claim this show is disrespectful to the military, I think that's a little far fetched.  Like any other source of comedy, the show magnifies characteristics, both positive and negative.  The hearts of the creators are in the right place, and the Enlisted team is really connected to their viewers. My question about who'd be watching on the AHE FB page last night hit Twitter and it blew up!  A simple question for my readers was acknowledged and appreciated over and over by the creator, the writers, a producer, an actor, and so forth.  It was like IMDB threw up on my Twitter Interactions.

Ultimately, Enlisted provides a great opportunity to unwind at the end of a long week, poke fun at ourselves, and have a good laugh.  We need that, especially during wartime.  We face the harsh realities of our duty day in and day out.  Laughter is cathartic, we owe it to ourselves.

Enlisted premieres on FOX this Friday, January 10th, at 9:30/8:30 central.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mind Tricks and Running Tips

Source: J. Boone Pooler Photography
Not everyone enlists in the military with a background in running or a passion for running.  I know I didn't.  I couldn't run a solid mile when I first started.  The reality is, running is 60% of your PT score.  If that freaks you out and/or you have testing anxiety, this post is aimed at you and how to better prepare yourself mentally and physically for the running portion of your fitness assessment.  Please keep in mind that I am not an athletic trainer/coach and/or a doctor.  These are some things that have worked for me and may just work for you!

  • Find a track.  Ideally, find a standard, artificial turf track in your local area, like at your nearest high school.  One lap is a quarter mile, and six laps will give you that 1.5 mile distance that you're required to do for your PT test.  Start practicing on that track.  I find that when I hit a track after not being on one for a while, I get really anxious.  I like to train for my PT test on an actual track to help reduce the anxiety on testing day.
  • Start easy.  It's really easy when you're nervous to take off way faster than you're comfortable with.  Start off at a comfortable pace.  Most running sources recommend that you be able to talk while running to determine if you're pushing yourself at an appropriate level.  If you can't talk, you're overexerting yourself.  Heads up, the MTIs will try to tell you differently.
  • Focus on form.  If it's a day where I'm exhausted and not running at my normal/fastest pace, I slow it down and think about my form versus thinking about how slow/fast I'm running.  Practice working on your form so that it becomes natural for you.    
  • Hydrate.  This goes without saying and you'll get it hammered into you at BMT.  You need to hydrate.  Not the day of your run either, the day prior.  The hydration you do the day before affects your performance the next day.  Keep that in mind if you're training heavily.
  • Pace yourself.  See if you can make it around the track in 2:15.  If you can keep up that pace, you're in good shape.  That's the time of the timed run down at BMT.  If you have a hard time of gauging this, go ahead and grab a buddy to run with you.  During a PT test in the operational AF, it is permissible to have a pacing buddy to keep you motivated and to help you keep time.  If you can't do it just yet, go as slow as you need to, just don't stop running.  That's the biggest thing, since once you start walking down at BMT, the MTIs are all over you.  It's easier to pick up the pace from a slow jog than it is to start running again after you've been walking.
  • Mind over music.  While MP3 players are allowed in the operational AF while testing, you will not be allowed to listen to any music while at BMT.  That may be an adjustment for you if you typically use music to relax or motivate yourself while running.  I used the time while running at BMT to think about my goals, envision myself running races back home, or to "race" the person just ahead of me and see if I could get past them.  Keep your mind busy, it's some of the only time you have to think.
  • Countdown to finish.  Being a mathematician, I like to spend my time on the track calculating just how much more I have left.  Rather than thinking of each lap as "I just finished my 3rd," I mentally say to myself, "I'm on my 4th!"  It's the little things for me, mentally.  Here's how I break it down while on the track:
    • 1.5 Laps - 25% down!
    • 2 Laps - 1/3 of the way done!
    • 3 Laps - Halfway done!
    • 4 Laps - 2/3 of the way done!
    • 4.5 Laps - 75% done!
  • Treat your feet.  I've said it before, and it's worth repeating.  If you can afford to purchase a new pair of shoes before you leave, do it.  Go to a local running shop and get properly fitted for running shoes based upon your gait and foot strike.  Break them in before you go down to BMT.  Your feet will thank you.  
Need more help with your running?  Try the Couch-to-5K program if you're a brand new runner.  Best of luck to you - you can do this!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Resolution: Fit For Duty

Happy New Year!  Three years ago, I made the decisions to contact a recruiter and begin the process to serve my country.  I made January 1st my suspense date, and held myself accountable.

Perhaps you're in that same position this year.  There's so many factors up in the air during this process.  Will they have a position for you?  Will you get a high enough score on your ASVAB?  Will your medical history hold you back?  Will they find something wrong with you at MEPS?  

One thing you can and must do is to get in shape, if you're not already.  Not a runner (like me when I started - I couldn't do a mile nonstop at this altitude )?  Well, it's time to become one!  Being in good physical shape is a requirement for the military, and plus, it's going to make your life much easier while at BMT if you go in there with some level of conditioning under your belt.

Not sure what to do or where to get started?  If you're one of those individuals that needs a plan that you can follow, versus trying to come up with something on your own, you're in luck!

Designed for those already in the Air Force, the Fit For Duty program of conditioning is meant to prepare you for your fitness assessment. 

In addition to a detailed training regime listed on their website, there are step-by-step pictures of each exercise, a downloadable Exercise Library PowerPoint of the workout routine (183 pages!), and twenty-six YouTube videos to accompany your training.  Pretty dang comprehensive if you're looking for some direction in your fitness routine.

Enjoy and Aim High!