Tag Archives: travel

What I Love

Some of my recent rants on Facebook or in this forum have highlighted problems I’ve encountered with leadership in the military… so much so that I got some pointed feedback on one Facebook post asking about my plans to separate (…which I turned into a different rant, but that’s beside the point).

I was thinking how easy it is to focus on all the bad things and complain about what I think is wrong or what I don’t like, while paying no attention to all the good that has come from the last 18 years in the military.

So this is my tirade about what I love about this job.

Kadena AB, 2012
Best job ever. Usually.

Skills: As a guy fresh out of high school, I was an experienced grocery bagger and stock-boy. I also had a paper route. Highly marketable skills. The Air Force taught me two foreign languages and trained me for intelligence production and first-line analysis. Then they instructed me as an aircrew member and developed my communication skills and crisis management. They’ve taught me decision-making and resource management, and they’ve shuffled me through a variety of jobs and programs that give me some understanding of what works and what doesn’t in a corporate office. Perhaps most importantly, I have been in a variety of positions requiring management and interaction with other people, whether as peers, subordinates, or supervisors. I’ve learned how to get along with others in order to get the job done, even when we personally don’t see eye to eye. I’ve developed empathy for the needs of others, and I like to think that there’s some element of the servant-leadership we hear about during military education–that leadership style which says “I as a leader am here to take care of your needs as you accomplish the mission.” Most of these skills have proven essential over the years, and I know they’ll serve me well after I take off the flight suit and set a retirement shadow box up on the shelf.

Travel: One of the main selling points of military service is that “you get to see the world.” I am quite grateful in this regard. Prior to Basic Training, I never traveled more than two or three hours outside the Chicago area. Now I can say that I have stood on the beaches and battlefields of Okinawa, and I’ve enjoyed the weather in Florida. I hiked the side of Mount Fuji and ate wild strawberries in autumn in the hills of Washington state. I’ve walked the Las Vegas strip at night and visited rural villages in the Philippines on a medical relief mission. I’ve driven through every state west of the Mississippi and I’ve flown around the world. From the markets of Doha, to the temples of Thailand, from the scenic drives of the Monterey Bay, to the tropical paradise of Diego Garcia, I have seen far more of the world than I ever expected. And I have the Air Force to thank for this.

Experiences: The travel is made all the sweeter because of the special memories associated with these places. There’s the satisfaction of flying operational sorties that provide needed intelligence to soldiers on the ground in harm’s way. There’s the excitement of seeing another nation’s military in operation, up close and personal. There’s the joy of interacting with members of other services and other nation’s Air Forces, learning about our commonalities and our different styles of operations. Then there’s the unique opportunities – picnics with the crew eating tuna steaks fresh off a grill, from a fish that was swimming in the open ocean three hours earlier… pig roasts at the park, parties on the beach, and crew traditions in the squadron lounge, hearing stories from the men and women who were doing this job long before I enlisted… connecting with fellow believers around the world and walking into a Chapel on the other side of the earth from home, accepted and allowed to minister to the local congregation through music and song. There’s the special camaraderie that comes from dealing with a frustrating or challenging situation, and knowing that I’m not alone in this, that I’m there with my brothers and sisters in arms, and we’re all fighting to get through it. (And also I got to fly an F-15 that one time.)

People: These experiences would be nothing without the special and tremendous group of people that make up the Armed Forces. On a day-to-day basis, I get to interact with people who have (for one reason or another) raised their right hand and volunteered their service and their very lives for a cause greater than themselves. Not only that, but my job puts me in constant contact with the very best and brightest of this special class of American. As a sheltered young man from a very conservative background who preferred solitude to socializing, my time in the Air Force has been eye-opening, shattering any stereotypes and preconceived notions I had about anyone “not me.” Every day I see people who are totally different from me, and yet they share the desire to excel in what we do, to improve the situations and circumstances around them, to take care of the needs of their fellow Airmen and those less fortunate. I see the selfless service and devotion of individuals to their peers and to this nation, and I am deeply proud to be a part of it. More importantly, when our task sucks and our deadline is looming, and we’re pushing ourselves to the limits to get the job done, I feel a sense of success as my peers tell me, “You made that difficult time better for me. Thanks.”

Family: There is a special group of people that I wouldn’t know at all if it was not for my time in the Air Force. I met my wife in 1996 when she was serving in the Air Force as a Civil Engineering troop on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. She was my ride to church, my sister in Christ, eventually my best friend, and soon after, my fiancee. We met because a friend from Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas had a neighbor who had a friend on Okinawa who was a missionary from Hong Kong who happened to know another young Airman who attended a good church where I felt accepted and loved. That’s a mouthful! Now I have a wonderful teenage daughter and three amazing sons (and a pain-in-the-butt wiener dog).

So… when I complain on Facebook about the Air Force doing something stupid, or when I go off on a Thursday Tirade about mismanagement and abuse of power, please understand that I am not whining because I hate my job. I’m venting because I have so many reasons to love this job. So I get upset when our silliness and poor decisions obscure all the awesome reasons to join and stay in the military.

My friends know that when something difficult comes up at work, I will occasionally mutter, “I love my job I love my job I love my job” in an intentionally unconvincing monotone. We all laugh – misery loves company, after all.

But maybe, way deep down, I secretly mean it.

TDY Lemonade

Does not contain Will Smith or Bill Pullman
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

So the Air Force sent me TDY the weekend of the big air show back home.

For my non-military readers, “TDY” means “temporary duty” in the Air Force. Different services call it different acronyms, but it simply means you go somewhere else and do your job there for a short (or long) while. A six-day trip like mine is pretty short.

Of course, that leaves my wife home with four children and a zoo’s worth of pets.

And I miss the air show. I love airplanes. I particularly love the variety of fighters we’ve built over the years. There were supposed to be F/A-18E/F Super Hornets this year.

But such is life in the military, and we’ve grown accustomed to short-notice changes. The plan for this trip changed literally ten times or so. First we were going to England, then we were not, then we were, then maybe not, then maybe Washington State, then maybe not, then we found some rooms maybe but not enough, then no really there are enough rooms… you get the point.

My wife’s family lives in Washington State. My mother-in-law, Karen drives three hours one way every weekend to visit her husband, Jim in a care center where he stays while dealing with the effects of emphysema and the other ravages of a life-time of smoking. This weekend, Karen brought him a surprise: me.

We had a chance to play some Scrabble (Karen cheated, I maintain!). We chatted about how big my four children are now. We attempted to get a phone connection for FaceTime but reception out there was horrible. So we looked at the videos and photos of the kids that I have on my iPad and iPhone.

Convenience!
It DOES make shopping easy! (kidding)

Here’s Jonathan in his new glasses…
Here’s Teenager Deborah trying to be patient with Justin climbing on her…
Here’s Judah smiling…
Here’s our rabbit and our parakeet that we just bought…
Here’s Judah in a hand-held shopping basket…

I don’t know how well Jim does each weekend, of course. I only had this one to judge by.

But Karen said he seemed very happy to see me and seemed in good spirits as a result. We shook hands (he still gives a firm handshake), and he said, “You’re a good son-in-law.” I told him, sincerely, “It’s an honor.”

He let me give him a hug and even let me snap a picture for my wife and children.

He even smiled
Jim at the Care Center

All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday in a place I didn’t originally want to be.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28 NASB