Monthly Archives: December 2013

Go Guard!

Wait, what?  Isn’t Erin a Reservist?

Yes, yes I am!  But AHE recognizes that your Air Force provides you with choices, and that you must do what’s best for you, your career goals, and your family.  There are some common experiences for all three (active duty, AFR, ANG), but they are each their own unique beasts in other areas.  I write from my perspective as a Reservist and there’s just some questions I can’t answer without referring you to another subject matter expert (SME).  

Dina began her Air Force career as an active duty Airman, but switched to the Guard through the Palace Chase program [more on that in a future post] after having her son.  She is also part of a dual military couple, and married to a fellow Airman as well.  Dina blogs over at

Are you thinking about joining the Air National Guard? 

I’ll tell you, first of all the Air National Guard is a separate service.  We can and do work hand and hand with the National Guard, which is actually the Army.  While of course the Air National Guard is the Air Force.  
Both services work for the state and the federal government but only when called to activation by the president.  But just to clear this up, we work for and get paid by the state.  So whatever state you join the Guard in your big boss is the Governor of the state. 
The Guard responds to state emergencies and tasking sent down to them by the Governor.  Which could be anything from wildfires, flash floods, hurricanes, snow storms, etc.  The Guard is also involved in community programs and is very integrated into the community since many of the members of the unit work within the community during the normal workweek. 
The Guard is located in every single state to include the territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and The U.S. Virgin Islands. 
All the jobs that are in the Air Force and the Air Force Reserve are the same exact jobs in the Guard.
The Guard does offer educational benefits such as the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which I bought into and I’m currently using now.  I feel as a Guardsman if you are not working and you have enough time in service that using this option is the best bet due to the BAH stipend.  But you need to have enough time in service to be able to use that option. 
There are also health benefits at a very reasonable rate and some medical things can even be taken care of at an Active Duty clinic if you live in a city near one.
Like the Reserve, the Guard offers Technician positions and Activated Guard positions.  The differences are the benefits to include education, health and rank.  AGR positions are basically just like being the Active Duty counter-part only you don’t move. 
Another similarity to the Reserve is that the Guard is required to work one weekend a month and two weeks out of the year.  However, depending on your unit you do not have to work the entire two weeks at one time.  You can split your days up over the course of the fiscal year. 
If you choose to move to another state a positive is that you don’t have to give up your time in the Guard.  You can transfer to different Guard units to include the territories.  The only downside to the Guard is if you are married to an Active Duty Service member it can be tricky with finding you a new unit.  It is very easy to move stateside.  However, if you spouse gets orders overseas you might have to consider transferring to the Air Force Reserve since they do have positions overseas.  Or going in what is called inactive ready reserve (IRR), which is basically taking a break in service until you return to the states.  If your unit were out of this world awesome a final option would be that your unit would allow you to complete all of your drill weekends and annual training days at one time. 
Another perk about being in the Guard is you are able to travel military air for a very, very, very….did I say very?  Very, good price.  You would be able to travel to all the continental United States and Alaska and Hawaii. 
You would also be able to take advantage of Active Duty privileges such as the commissary and the base exchange if you are near a active military base.  This includes other military services too!
And finally the most fantastic thing about being in the Guard is the people you work with.  Many of them have been in the unit a very long time.  Which is a good thing, because they are very good at their jobs.  Also if you are unhappy with your job, it is not difficult to retrain in the Guard like it is Active Duty.  As long as you qualify for a job you are able to move to that job.  Which provides a lot of new opportunities and job growth. 
Just don’t forget that even though the Guard does work for the state there are still chances that you can deploy in support of contingency operations. 
The Guard is an amazing service and has fantastic people.  

Thank you Dina!  I hope this helps shed some light on the differences and opportunities that the ANG has to offer! – Erin  

This is how we do it!

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!]

Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays.  May you be surrounded by loved ones, be they family, friends, or flight members!

What do I get my Airman?!

Air Force BMT Graduation Gifts

Air Force BMT Graduation Gifts by aimhigherin featuring holiday wreaths

Garmin Forerunner 210 / USAF Wreath / Air Force 40 Challenge Coin Holder / Reebok Boots / ABU iPad Case / USAF Toiletry Kit / H-D USAF Pin-up Pilsner Set / Membership – National Musuem of the United States Air Force / Rocky S2V / Black 3 Day Pass

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.

NORAD Tracks Santa!

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 

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.]

My Hickory Tradition + Flash Giveaway!

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.

Hickory Farms has been a part of my family’s holiday tradition for as long as I can remember.  It sounds cheesy, no pun intended, but it’s true.  My family spends the holiday down in Mazatlan, Mexico, in a fabulous timeshare owned by my grandparents.  My mom was a teacher as well, and looked forward to her winter break every year.  Our trip became so regular that it truly was a vacation – we didn’t feel the need to sight-see or do anything but sleep, eat, and relax by the pool/on the beach.  We would stash food and other goodies in our luggage, and amongst our bathing suits and wrapped Christmas gifts was a Hickory Farms Beef Summer Sausage.  I’m not talking the little ones either – I’m talking the monster, honkin’ 1.6 pounder!  We would slice it up with cheese, put it on crackers, or on Mexican bolillos bought from the local markets.  Good stuff, folks, good stuff.

This didn’t last long…
Mmm…Golden Toasted Crackers!

As I’ve gotten older, I haven’t been able to go to Mexico as often as I’d like, many times because one of us is on military duty.  Instead of toting my sausage south of the border, Hickory Farms can come to me!  Out of appreciation for military service members and their families, Hickory Farms offers free shipping to APO/FPO addresses on select products at!  I have to commend them for that – so many military families serving abroad or those supporting members deployed struggle to find merchants that ship to APO/FPO addresses.  Hickory Farms not only ships to them, but does so for free?!  Kudos to them!

When I told DH that they were sending us the Beef Hearty Hickory box to review, he couldn’t contain himself.  The picture above?  Yeah, the products are all disheveled because he ripped into it before we could get a picture, and then attempted to put them all back neatly.  Once that picture was done, we had Hickory Farms for dinner that night.  Cheese, crackers, and beef summer sausage  while sitting on the couch as a family, watching Christmas movies?  It may not be Mexico, but it’s a darn good alternative.  I love making new memories with my family, now that we have DD, and incorporating family traditions into our own family’s holiday.  Even DD got in on the fun with their crackers [Baby Led Weaning FTW!].  

DH was already making a mental grocery list of more Hickory Farms products to pick up.  He easily polished off the first jar of Sweet Hot Mustard, and used the second on the next night on a ham sandwich to rave reviews.

Want to incorporate the Hickory Tradition into your holidays?  The Hickory Farms folks were kind enough to offer to pass along a Beef Hearty Hickory gift box to a lucky AHE reader!  This is a flash giveaway, for this week only and ending at midnight on Friday evening!  Enter below and Happy Holidays!  

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Struggling with Separation

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.]

Fitness Update + Giveaway!

Disclosure: I have been provided a race registration code by Spartan Race Media to be given away on my blog.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about OTS and how things are going with my commissioning process.  I’m still in a holding pattern, if you will, because of my PT score.  Despite the colder weather, the hectic holiday activities, and family commitments, I need to step up my game and find my motivation.  My commission depends on it.  

Motivation and positive influences are infectious.  Keep your winter momentum going this Saturday, December 7th, by tuning into NBC Sports to check out the Spartan Race World Championships!  We’re talking the best of the best competing for $250,000 in cash and prizes.  If they can tackle these feats, I can hit the floor and do a few crunches, right?!  Right, danggit.  I’m a month or so away from my re-test, and this needs to happen.  Victory for me is battling my own excuses and making this passing score happen.

You ready to up your motivation to the next level?  Why don’t you start training for your own Spartan Race?  That’s right, YOU!  AHE and Reebok Spartan Race are footing the bill for your entry fee to any Spartan Race in the 2013-2014 season in the continental United States.  Let’s do this!

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Even if you’re not the giveaway winner, you can get a 15% off code for your entry fee here!