Wishing you a Merry Christmas, the Air Force way! You know, that involves Chuck Norris, naturally. Can’t knock one of the most famous Airmen around! Aim High, Chuck! I love me a
C-17 C-5 too! [Thanks Bryan for calling me out on that one!]
I often see folks wondering what to get their favorite Airman for graduation from BMT. Trust me, your mere presence at graduation weekend is a gift enough! Your freshly minted Airman is thankful to have you there to celebrate their accomplishments and take them out for a real meal on the town. Remember, they haven’t been able to eat a meal in peace and at their leisure in weeks, let alone indulge in dessert, most likely.
That being said, if you’re wanting to drop some coin, I’m here to help with some ideas to get you started!
**My favorite gift couldn’t be included in the collage above, but it’s worth a look. The Airman Legacy Paver. For $55 you can have a personalized paver on the bomb run at Lackland AFB. The pavers that your Airman will march over during parade? Very significant, very meaningful. This is where your Airman’s career started – help them make their mark. These pavers support the construction and development of the Airman Heritage Museum.**
Garmin Forerunner 210 – This is a GPS watch for running that also monitors your heart rate. I have a similar watch for my own training, and they’re fantastic. I purposefully selected this watch because it is all black, meaning your Airman could wear it while in uniform as well. That next PT test will be here before you know it, and why not keep the momentum going, since your Airman is probably in fantastic shape right now!
Air Force Wreath – This may seem a little different, but what about an AF wreath to show some pride at home? If your Airman has already bought everything they need/want and you need to think a little out of the box, this is a great way to tastefully fly your colors at home.
AF Museum Membership – Is your Airman more culturally minded, or upholding a long family tradition of AF/military services? What about an annual membership to the National Museum of the United States Air Force? Even if they can’t make it out to Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, that often, they would still appreciate receiving their quarterly journal and supporting the preservation of our history.
3 Day Pass Bag – This is a fantastic backpack that will serve your Airman well whether they’re toting study materials around their tech school base or their gear once permanent party. I purposefully picked black (versus the ABU style that I own) because it’s not only cheaper but more versatile. Solid black bags must be worn/carried when a member is wearing their blues. Tons of storage, tons of organization, this is a solid buy and can be personalized if you buy a name tape to go across the front.
ABU iPad Case – If your Airman is an Apple-lover, they’ll enjoy this iPad case. It’s a trifold style with slots for a pen/stylus and cards. Your iPad is zippered into its section and there’s a microfiber cleaning pad included. The trifold style allows you to prop it up for viewing and you can personalized it with a name tape across the front. I bought this for my iPad and my DH quickly commandeered it. With so many maintainers using iPads now, this is a great option.
Challenge Coin Rack – You’d be amazed at how quickly you can accumulate challenge coins while in the military. I have always loved these AF logo shaped racks, and the open top allows them to accommodate irregularly shaped coins. Keep in mind that your Airman will need desk/table space to accommodate this item, as it is not a wall-mountable rack.
Harley AF Pin-Up Pilsner – The AF crowd is no stranger to a craft beer, as you’ll soon learn. If your Airman is also a Harley-Davidson motorcycle enthusiast they’ll really get a kick out of this pin-up pilsner set. Just remember that they’re not allowed to drink until tech school, and only if they’re of legal age and not in uniform/not during the duty day.
AF Toiletry Bag – Another recommendation from personal experience, this toiletry bag is perfect for vacation or a short TDY. Tons of pockets and organization loops inside, this has a hanging hook and a mirror inside. Ladies, you’ll love the elastic loops on the inside for makeup brushes and other small items. I can get out of town with just this one toiletry bag, rather than having a separate bag for makeup. Again, buy a plain name tape to slip in the front to personalize!
New Boots – Chances are, your Airman will be ready to ditch their issued boots once they finish BMT in favor of a more comfortable pair. The two pairs shown are mine and DH’s boots of choice. As a maintainer, he loves these Reeboks with their side-zip and composite toes for safety. Easy on, easy off, no lacing required, and a sturdy, comfortable sole for all day on the flightline. While I’m not on my feet all day like he is, these Rocky boots are comfortable, have great traction for our snowy conditions, and offer great padding through the shaft of the boot.
Keep in mind that your Airman will have very limited space and restrictions on what they can bring along to tech school. Worse come to worst, you can always mail items to them at their tech school location.
|Personnelist by day, Santa Tracker by night!|
We are a mere nine days…I repeat, nine days…away from Christmas Day! If you’ve been a long-time reader of AHE, you may know that I’ve volunteered with NORAD Tracks Santa for the last two years as an official Santa Tracker. It’s an amazing experience, if you’re a Colorado Springs local, and the volunteer slots fill up really quickly, as they open them up to civilians and military-connected personnel.
Some of the folks I’ve talked to weren’t even aware that you could call into the Santa Tracker – they’ve only been tracking online. You can call (877-HI-NORAD) or email the Santa Trackers and we’ll let you know where Santa’s at, when he should arrive at your location, and answer any other questions you have to the best of our abilities! There’s also apps you can download to your smartphone or you can track on your computer at NORADSanta.org.
In the meantime, the NORAD Santa website has a ton of fun games, information, and other cool videos to keep your Santa stalkers busy while they eagerly await the big day. Tracking begins at 0300 MST on December 24th!
This year I will not be participating, as I’ll be at home counting down the minutes with my own little elf, but I know that I will resume Santa tracking duties when her Santa years have passed.
[Not a sponsored post at all, it’s just AWESOME and therefore you should track Santa too.]
Disclosure: I have been provided a Beef Hearty Hickory gift box for review by Hickory Farms, as well as one to be given away on my blog. All opinions presented within this post are my own.
|This didn’t last long…|
|Mmm…Golden Toasted Crackers!|
|Making Christmas memories! [Source]|
It’s been a while since I’ve laid it all on the table for you folks, and at the risk of criticism and judgment, it’s time to be straight with you.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t second guess my decision to go to OTS.
I’m not talking on a daily basis, but just every now and then during a weak moment or when I read about the affects of separation on children and their parents (particularly nursing mothers). Kids change things, mark my words. I think everyone knows that, but you really know that when you’re in those shoes. We sign up knowing that sacrifice and separation are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean I/we have to embrace it, at least not all the time.
Originally, I thought I was going to have to leave on or before January, which seems unfathomable now. I’m so thankful that it’s not the case. DD is 8 months old and I’m still nursing her – I’m determined to make it to a full year. Ideally, my freezer stash will support her while I’m gone, and any other milks she gets at the time when I’m gone will be coconut or the like – no formula. [Not trying to start a breastfeeding versus formula debate here, it’s just my preference for my child.] If I’m able to get my preferred school date, she’ll be almost fourteen months when I leave.
It breaks my heart just thinking about having to ween her prior to when her and I are ready to stop nursing, so I can stop lactating before I leave for OTS. I don’t know how I’m going to deal, emotionally, with knowing she wants to nurse, I want to nurse her, but I can’t. Or holding her close and discouraging her efforts. It’s how she goes to sleep every night. Will I have to start putting her in her crib before I leave, so she gets used to not being nursed to sleep? Right at the time when I’m going to want to be as close to her as possible, to cherish every minute before I have to leave. When I return, is there any hope of relactating? Will she reject me because she doesn’t understand why I’ve left her for so long? Will she reject nursing or my attempts to start it back up? I’m going to come home to a “new normal,” even in the mere nine weeks that I’m gone. I’m so, so thankful that this is OTS and not BMT; I’ll have many more opportunities to call home and hopefully FaceTime.
So, when I tell you I haven’t heard about my package, it’s true. It hasn’t been sent off for final submission yet, and I’m ok with that. I don’t even have a school date yet, and who knows what The Powers That Be will do with me. I haven’t tossed it by the wayside, I am still following through and doing everything on my part. I’m just not stressing as much when I hit walls, like when I’m told to come back later to process paperwork. What will be, will be. Nothing is set in stone yet, and I need to live in the moment and take advantage of every second that I have with my daughter. I am at peace knowing that I don’t need this to happen (commissioning) for the sake of supporting my family or to achieve a sense of purpose. I know that opportunities for leadership exist in both the enlisted side and on the officer side, and that I will make the most out of my career no matter where my path takes me.
All I can do is live in the moment, and let tomorrow’s worries not affect my todays.
[Side note: I’m definitely aware that nine weeks is nothing in comparison to a deployment, or even a tech school. Preparing myself, emotionally, for that separation is easier said than done, especially as a nursing, first time mom. Much respect to all of those who’ve had to do longer separations earlier in their children’s lives. It’s hard, it sucks, all the way around, but that’s the responsibility we’ve assumed.]
Aiming High is not about achieving at your fullest potential all the time, every time. It’s also about being humbled by your losses and growing from them, rather than giving up. Today, I experienced a new loss in my Air Force career. Today, I failed my first PT test.
|Source: Air Force Times|
If you’ve been following alone, you know I’ve been very anxious about this test, as it was the first one I’ve taken since having my daughter. I don’t work out with the regularity that I used to, pre-pregnancy, and my caloric intake is greater these days to keep up with my breastfeeding. I was ready to get it over with, to say the least.
My weakest area is my pushups – always has been. I’ve got your usual T-Rex body type, so I was worried that I wasn’t going to hit the minimum amount for my age range, fourteen. I had done some sit-ups after bedtime and I was able to get in the mid to high 30s, so I figured I was good in this area. I also knew that my run time was passable.
I was in the first testing group of the day, with only one other female. I figured I’d be partnering with her. We were practically outnumbered by Fitness Assessment Cell (FAC) Airmen, and one of these individuals did all of the counting for me. I guess they’re cracking down on the “Wingmanship Concept.” 😉
Always brutally honest with you, even at my own expense, here are my stats:
Weight: 183 lbs
Height: 72 inches
Waist: 33.5 inches
Run: 14:52, adjusted due to altitude to 14:34
When they first weighed me, the Airman put me down for 132 lbs! I just couldn’t let that slide by, and got up and corrected him. Integrity first, right? I haven’t seen the 130s in a decade or more, easily. I’m still a good 16 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight, but I was in amazing shape then for my first PT test. The waist measurement was smaller than I thought it’d be, especially since she was hitting me around the “muffin top” area. I guess I wasn’t pulling tight enough when I was measuring at home. Game on, I wasn’t complaining.
I was the first up, and the first part was pushups. Oh well, here went nothing! I managed to eek out 21 for her, or at least that was how much she counted, before I hit the ground. More than enough to meet my minimum. After that part, I was feeling good – probably a little too confident at this point. I figured I could pull it off and have it in the bag. When I got back down on the mat for the sit-ups, I just couldn’t pull it off. The timer was calling out 30 seconds left and I knew I wasn’t close enough to my minimum. I hit 20 and was done with the buzzer. Quite the contrast from the last PT test where I maxed my sit-ups. I didn’t remember them hurting this much when I’d practiced at home.
At that point, I knew I was done, but they don’t give you an option to just walk away at that point. The purposelessness of the run crossed my mind, trust me, especially when you know you can’t pass no matter how fast you go. I sucked it up and decided to take the run at a leisurely pace. At least if my score came close to passing, I could show my commander that I did try and almost passed, despite missing my minimum sit-ups by 9 repetitions. I had aimed to finish my run in less than fifteen minutes, and mission accomplished.
Nothing happened at the FAC as a result of my failure. I signed my score sheet, they made me a copy, and I was on my way. They don’t actually tell you your score when you’re there. They leave the calculations up to the fitness management website, which is updated pretty rapidly. My new score was in the system later that day, as sad as it was to see my little line graph take a pathetic drop. My final score was a 74.9. Yes, that’s 0.1 points away from a passing score of 75. If I would’ve hit the minimum number of sit-ups, I would’ve passed.
So, what happens next? I have 90 days to retest. As a result of my failure, I have to complete a “Be Well” course through the Health and Wellness Center (HAWC) on base, or via an online course (most likely the route I’ll take). I wasn’t overly disappointed in myself for my loss today. I had so much anxiety and nervousness going into this test that I’m hoping I do fine on the next one because the pressure is off. As long as I make a concerted effort to improving my core strength, I can pass.
On a related note, I can’t submit my OTS package for final approval until I have a fitness letter with my current, passing PT score. So, that’s on hold for the time being.
On a positive note, I have a ton of support from fellow Airmen, friends, and family. Time for me to get serious about limiting my caloric intake to healthy calories and make more time for strength training.
Well, this is it. The shutdown is over and drilling for Reservists has resumed. Our October UTA got rescheduled for later in the fiscal year, but this weekend is the November UTA and my rescheduled PT test. At this point, most of my anxiety about the task is gone. I just want to get it over with already. I’ve made peace with the fact that there’s nothing I can do this week, in terms of physical fitness preparation, that will make me perform better on Saturday. All I can do is show up, breath, and push my body to the limit to do my very best. I intend to do the smart thing and get a good night’s sleep on Friday, as well as hydrating all day, but that’s it.
This is far from the “Aim High” attitude I like to shoot for, but it’s my reality right now. I have so many outside stressors right now that I can’t let this become one of them. It’s time to just let it go. Thank you for all of the positive thoughts and energy you can send my way!
How appropriate that this article should hit the Air Force Times and my Facebook feed, a mere seventeen days before my own postpartum PT test!
In a nutshell, SSgt Alison Mona had failed two PT tests postpartum and worried that she would potentially be discharged from the Air Force, chose to have her roommate stab her in the stomach so she could go to the hospital for “attack wounds” instead of take her test. Whoa.
Folks, I’m as nervous as the next new mom, but having DH stab me so I can get on a new profile and avoid testing is far from my fitness plan! This article has opened up some good discussions about postpartum PT, both critical and supportive. There are some that assert that there should be no modifications to the PT standards for postpartum women, and that they should still be expected to test six months after birthing, as they knew the expectations of being fit in the military. Fair enough. I’m pretty sure I felt this way too, as a judgmental non-mom. But that’s not my frame of reference anymore.
As a new mom, it makes sense to me now. As a mother who chooses to breastfeed (for at least a year), it is abundantly clear to me. Prior to getting pregnant, I was in excellent physical shape. I had been eating clean, working out, and running six days a week. I poured my efforts into preparing for that first PT test and came out with a score of 96.5. Even during my pregnancy, I was going to the gym at least once a week and running into my 28th week of gestation. Motherhood throws a monkey wrench into those plans though. My lifestyle is dramatically different, now that it’s about more than just me. To maintain a sufficient supply of milk, you have to increase your caloric intake, yet in order to lose weight you need to decrease those calories. Breastfeeding does burn calories in the process, but nothing dramatic in my case. My child comes first, period. I want her to be healthy and receive the best nutrition possible, and I have decided to do that through breastfeeding for an extended period of time.
I didn’t feel like I even had time to work out until DD was maybe four months old, and even then, my options are limited when I need to be in close proximity to feed her. Could I have someone give her a bottle while I work out? Sure, but I’d also have to pump, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be away from her for too long. I haven’t been back to the gym since I’ve given birth. Instead, I try to sneak in a couple pushups and sit-ups when I get the chance, or go for a mile and a half jaunt around the neighborhood while my FIL watches her. It’s not a lot, but it’s the best I can do right now. Anyone with a young child can tell you that you’re not always able to plunk them down and keep them occupied long enough to do a workout video, nor can you ignore all of those other chores that need to get done during nap time.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and make some assumptions based on limited knowledge and experience, so go easy on me. As a Reservist, I’m held to the same PT standards and timeframe as an Active Duty mom. The catch is that the responsibility of fitness falls solely on me. My civilian job doesn’t value fitness and build it into my day. If I were AD, there might be opportunities for me to participate in daily PT as part of my job, but I’m not. I have to put in my full day of work to come home, make dinner, bathe and put my child to bed, and then hope to have some time to myself (when I’m not doing chores).
Fortunately, I’m in fairly decent shape, and while I’m a far cry from the fit, pre-baby Airman I once was, I might be able to pull this off. I want to, I have to, I need to. I need to remain eligible for my OTS package. That’s my big motivator these days. At this point, I wouldn’t be disappointed to get less than a 90 and have to PT again in six months. That’s doable. But I just need to pass. I’m not willing to go to drastic lengths to avoid this test, but I’m nervous. As a postpartum mom, I can feel the desperation in the story of SSgt Mona. I assume she’s a single mother, willing to do anything to protect her living and provide for her children. I can respect that and I can relate to that. Hopefully this story, as sensational as it is, opens up a discussion as to whether women should be expected to uphold the same physical standards after having a baby. Is “Nine Months On, Six Months Off” realistic? Food for thought!