The other day I realized it has already been one year since I left for OTS. I can’t believe it! I would love to say this past year was a cakewalk and that I leisurely strolled through the transition, but the truth is that it was one of the more challenging years of my life. This isn’t a bad thing because making major life changes always requires effort, but it definitely wasn’t easy. At the end of the day (or year in this case), I would say this year burned off a lot of impurities in my life and with who I am, and I have become a more defined, refined person.
One of the hardest parts of this past year was pulling my family through the transition with me. Moving your family from one location to another is an obvious challenge, but what I didn’t anticipate was the toll of change. After OTS instead of having a defined path ahead of me like other career fields, the 13S path was highly uncertain. Upon graduating from OTS I didn’t know when I would go to tech school (even roughly), what my operational unit would be even though I was stationed at the base, or what training would be required after tech school. There were times when I didn’t even know what to expect within a given week. I didn’t realize this until after it was over, but this year of chaos and uncertainty raised my baseline level of stress. This is probably more of a personality thing for me, but not knowing what to expect raised my stress level a few notches above my normal threshold. Add in the normal stresses of finding a place to live, training, evaluations, and debriefs, and I became an extremely stressed out version of myself. My temper was shorter, I could not focus on the task at hand as well, and every challenge in my life seemed like an insurmountable feat.
I have dealt with my fair share of stress in my previous career fields, so I was extremely grateful that my wife was particularly understanding. I think the hardest part for our family was translating the changes to my kids. My kids are still young so this isn’t something you can really talk about, it is instead something they sense. When something changes they pick up on it and react in their own way. I love my kids so I found myself spending more and more time with them in an effort to offset how much I was gone or how I was always busy. This took away more of my time to get things done, which in turn added to my stress level. This is still something I am struggling with today.
As I continued to progress through all of my training, I started to think that this would be the new norm of becoming an officer. I recall seeing seasoned CGO’s and above always walking around like they were late and never seeing their family, and I began to fear that this was already the reality for me. Since my family means so much to me, this was one of my greatest fears. There is no way I will be able to adequately explain this to you all, but the day I was finally certified on my system and finished with training, the entire weight of the past year was lifted off of my shoulders. I was finally able to breathe because I knew I had transitioned from the operational Air Force, through training (OTS, tech school, etc.) and back to the operational Air Force. It took me an entire year but I finally did it! This is when commissioning became a reality for me.
Despite the stress and the challenges, I am glad I decided to pursue a commission. My enlisted assignments were new and exciting for a short period, but I would quickly settle in to the new missions and routines. For me personally, the space career field is the perfect balance between a technical and managerial career. As Security Forces I became very good at what the Air Force calls Command and Control, which is managing a situation with lots of moving pieces from a higher vantage point. While I was comm I learned that I have a technical mind and while I do not enjoy the most technical aspects of coding or programming, I strive to learn the processes and how they fit into the bigger picture. My current assignment in space is a blend of both. We command satellites to perform their mission but we also have to understand that they are technical machines with complex logical relationships.
But it is even more than that for me. I originally thought commissioning would be a continuation of my Air Force career, but now I know that it is the beginning of my career as an officer. The experience I gained from my enlisted career directly correlates with everything I do as an officer, but I now recognize that my enlisted career is over. When I commissioned I closed out that period of my life, packaged it up into the foundation of who I am today, and am now starting a brand new career with new and exciting adventures ahead of me. I feel like I am literally starting a new life and career but this time I know where I want to go and what I want to do. It is an amazing opportunity!