Yearly Archives: 2014

Just Keep Swimming

[Source]


Yeah, I’m going there.  The Dora/Finding Nemo approach to this whole situation, although that wasn’t my first analogy.  I started thinking about sharks, and that thought that they can’t stop swimming, or else they’ll die.  Discovery, the lovely purveyors of “Shark Week,” partially dispel that myth, but I digress.  Can you tell it’s been an exhausting week turned drill weekend?


We know that the military is an endless waiting game, and patience is a virtue, but even the most patient can only hold out for so long.  Does that mean that I’m giving up on OTS?  Not at all, but it does mean that I’m starting to do more forward thinking, especially if this should fall through.  

The last two school dates for this fiscal year are 20 May and 1 July.  I’ve heard rumors that they are full through this fiscal year, and I’ve also seen stories from people who just found out on 30 April that they’re in the 20 May school [yikes!].  We are also coming up on my eligibility to do Airman Leadership School (ALS), the Professional Military Education (PME) course that I need to complete in order to be promoted to SSgt.  As a Reservist, at 42 months Time in Service (TIS), I am eligible to do ALS, at least as someone with a six year enlistment.  You have two options for ALS – by correspondence (online) or in residence.  When I am eligible, my school year will have started, so while I could do it at my local base, I will most likely opt to do it online.  

Why go to this trouble?  Because if I’m going to be sitting around waiting for OTS, I may as well do it at a higher pay grade, or like I said before, if OTS doesn’t pan out for whatever reason, at least I won’t have wasted all of this time waiting.  Side note, there is a Time in Training requirement for my promotion as well, but there is a waiver process for it if desired/possible.  I am also promotable in my current position (up to TSgt).  If you are active duty, your process for promotion will be very different, but ALS is required for you as well.

So, that’s where I’m at.  A hungry shark, who can’t stop moving.  Dori, who is just going to keep swimming.  [Insert persistent sea creature here.]  

An Exercise in Patience

The “Hurry Up and Wait” phrase is a bit of a cliche in the military, but sadly, there’s so much truth to it.  That’s where I am right now, with my future in a holding pattern, waiting to hear where I’m heading next.  Preaching to the choir for you active duty folks waiting on orders, I know.


The Good
Remember this?  Yeah, my enlisted self is still here.
My Deserving Airman Commissioning Package finally made it out of the Wing and up to the appropriate people.  I’ve verified this with two different people, so I believe it to be true at this point.  Lots of blind faith going on over here.  Too bad they don’t make trackers for packages, like they do pizza delivery and online shopping.  I have no idea what happens next and on what timeline, or how I’ll even be notified.  

The Bad
I’m running out of time here, folks.  My preferred school date starts May 20th.  I’ve been buzzing around AirForceOTS.com again, and saw that someone has already been bumped into the next fiscal year.  I would prefer not to go July through September, as that really throws off my teaching year.  Say what you will, but I would like to do OTS during my summer vacation.  I’m dedicated to both of my careers, military and civilian.

The Ugly
I have no idea what’s going on with my career or DH’s at this point.  We’re flirting with the idea of relocating out of state if he finds permanent employment there, but everything is up in the air at this point.  He’s on a six month TDY right now and loves what he’s doing.  If he were to make that a full-time gig, that’d be great for our family.  Of course, it would be ideal if he could find a position like that out here, but I’m not sure if that’s going to be possible, especially with the latest proposal to cut jobs at Peterson.  I can’t make any plans beyond May because I have no idea if I’ll even be in town.  My assistant principal at school is anxious to know if I’ll be here next year or what’s going on with DH’s job.  I tell him he knows as much as I do at this point, which is true.  Don’t even get me started on the “what ifs” – what if I’m at OTS when an out of state move needs to happen?  What is my culinary-challenged FIL going to feed my daughter while I’m gone?  Questions like this swirl in my head all the time.

So, in the meantime I’m going on about my business and trying to be proactive in my research.  That’s about all I can do.  Keep on truckin’, friends!

Community College of the Air Force

You may have heard your recruiter talk about education opportunities within the Air Force.  I’m not talking about Tuition Assistance or the Montgomery G.I. Bill, as I have not taken advantage of either of those programs yet, but I have earned my Associate in Applied Science degree courtesy of the CCAF degrees are increasingly becoming more important to your military career.  While I’m not sure if it’s been put in print just yet, the word is that you cannot progress to the senior non-commissioned officer ranks unless you have a CCAF degree.  The Air Force really stresses that education and leadership go hand in hand, and this is no exception.


Upon graduation from tech school, you are automatically enrolled in the CCAF degree program that goes with your AFSC.  As a 3S0X1 (Personnelist), my CCAF degree program is Human Resource Management.  You can check out the program requirements for your AFSC in
Your program may also require that you have your five level in your AFSC as well, keep that in mind.  While I finished my CDCs early on, I had to wait a full year after tech school to get my five level, and then my CCAF could be awarded.  It was a long time in the making, but I’m glad to have this one checked off my list.  This process took from September 2011 to April 2013 for me, largely because of the time in training requirement for my five level.

My understanding is that you can also take the credits awarded to you through military training, request a transcript, and apply those to your civilian degree, if you are working on a bachelor’s degree.  I only recently ordered CCAF transcripts for the first time.  They were very inexpensive ($2.25 for five), which is always appreciated.  If you take a good look at mine, you can see where they applied my credit from BMT, my tech school at Keesler, my five level acquisition (journeyman), as well as my transfer credits from my civilian school work and DSST/CLEP tests.

The CCAF degree is one of the many ways that you can further your education through the military, as well as one that looks great as a bullet on your performance reports or awards package, especially when completed early on in your military career.

Aunie’s ANG Student Flight


Are you awaiting your ship date for BMT?  Perhaps your unit has a Development and Training Flight (D&TF) or a Student Flight that you can participate in, not only for networking purposes but to prepare you for BMT.  I didn’t get the benefit of such a program, but I wish I had!  Annelise is joining us here on AHE today to tell us about her involvement in her Guard unit’s Student Flight.  Read about her experience after the jump!


I’m Annelise and I joined the Air National Guard in November of 2013.  I recently found out that I’ll be attending Basic Training (BMT) this spring of 2014, and until that training date arrives, I’ll be spending our mandatory UTA’s (drill weekends) out at Student Flight.



Student Flight was created to help prepare future trainees for BMT.  You learn all about rank, pay grades, uniform insignia, how to sit at attention and say the basic reporting statement, the USAF Chain of Command, how to roll t-shirts, roll socks, fold towels, make a bed, march in formation, practice PT—the list goes on and on.  Some attendees are even given the chance to be selected as Element Leaders, Class Leader, Road Guards, etc., giving you a first hand (and much lower pressure) look at what certain leadership positions will be like during training.  It’s a priceless tool that I’d highly recommend taking advantage of if you’ve got some time between enlisting and BMT.

Here are some things to note if your UTA is coming up and you’re scheduled to attend Student Flight:

  • Wear comfortable clothing!  Your recruiter will typically give you a list of what to wear & bring.  I recommend wearing a crew-neck t-shirt, jeans without holes, athletic shoes, and a belt to tuck in your shirt.  Men should be clean-shaven with short hair and women must wear their hair up.  It’s important to follow the dress code so you won’t stick out from the crowd—don’t give your instructors anything to pick on you for!
  • You will get yelled at and you will have to do push-ups.  This is why it’s so important to be in that comfortable clothing.  Not only will you be doing push-ups, but you’ll probably also be marching & doing flutter kicks, and other active tasks that are so much easier in clothes that allow you to move.
  • Bring PT gear.  Each UTA, our Student Flight does a PT test to see how we’re measuring up to the Air Force BMT Fitness Standards.  Make sure you’ve got your pants or shorts, a t-shirt, and your running shoes. 
  • Take every correction as constructive criticism.  The purpose of Student Flight is to prepare you for BMT, so if one of your instructors calls you out for something you’re doing wrong, don’t be upset!  They’re doing you a favor by correcting you… so learn from every mistake.  It’s so much better to make a mistake in Student Flight where there are absolutely no (or minimal) consequences versus down at Basic.

I suppose my summary of Student Flight might make it seem a little intimidating.  It’s truly not.  It’s an invaluable learning tool and is a lot of fun. You will be able to meet people from all over your squadron, receive pointers and advice from so many people who have “been there, done that,” and it will help pass the time before you leave for BMT.  Plus, did I mention?  You get paid! It’s a total win/win.

If you’d like to know more about Student Flight, I have several other posts about my pre-BMT experiences that can be found here.  Good luck, future Airmen.  Thank you for all you will do for our amazing country!

Thanks Annelise for sharing your suggestions and recommendations for those who have the opportunity to participate in Student Flight/D&TF!  I totally agree with you that it’s a win/win for those waiting to leave for BMT!  Take your training, preparation, and networking to the next level, and get paid on top of it?  Game on!

3 Years = Meritorious Service

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


[Source]
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.     

17 Jan 14 Uniform Updates!

Future Airman Aunie of

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.   

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
 
In light of recent Force Shaping with the Air Force, I have gotten a whole inbox full of questions from AD friends about joining the Air Guard. 
I personally left AD Air Force and Palace Chased in to the Air National Guard.  My reasoning was due to my son being born 7 weeks premature.  We decided as a family that my husband would stay in and I would Palace Chase.  Our little boy needed someone at home to take care of his needs.  So in this instance I sacrificed my career for the love of this precious little boy.  
So how did I do it?
Many of my friends want to know if it is easy and or if it is a good option to take during Force Shaping.  
I personally believe it is.
There are two ways to join the Guard or Reserve from AD of ANY branch of service.
But before you do that, you have to determine what which service you want to join.  You can log on to GoAng.com or AFReserve.com you will then be set up with an in service recruiter.  Or you can find the in service recruiter normally at the Professional Development Center on your base.  This is where you determine which branch you will join.
My first reason I decided to join the Air National Guard was because as AD we worked very closely with our Guard counterparts.  I felt that I would be more comfortable moving into an office where I already knew the folks that worked there.  The second reason was due to the fact that they didn’t have my job open in the Air Reserve the idea of retraining with a newborn while my husband was deployed did not sound like very much fun, or driving 2 hours away every Drill Weekend.
Once you determine what service you want to join the recruiter will help you with the process of staring your application and deciding if you want to Palace Chase or Palace Front.  At this point, your recruiter will let you know if your job is available or if you will need to consider retraining. 
The first way to join the Guard or Reserve is Palace Chase.
This process can be as short as 6 weeks, which was the case for me.  You have to meet certain qualifications in order to be approved for Palace Chase.  Your Functional Manager will determine if you can leave AD considering manning in the career field you are in, your PT scores, if you are on a profile, if you are on a control roster, and if you are a First Term Airmen you must complete at least HALF of your initial enlistment before you are able to qualify for Palace Chase. 
Once you meet all of those qualifications you are free to apply for Palace Chase via AFPC. 
When you get approval which I said could be as little as 6 weeks, but could take much longer, then you will determine your enlistment date into your new unit.  You will then officially begin the separation process.
Keep in mind you will have to serve DOUBLE the amount of time you have remaining on AD.  For instance I was at my 1-year mark of my 2nd term of enlistment.  I had 3 years remaining on my enlistment, so when I enlisted in the Air National Guard I had to serve 6 years in the Guard.
There is no application process at AFPC for Palace Front, which means there is no worry over manning issues.  The service member would contact an in service recruiter and line up a job on the end of the current enlistment.  Once the service member has separated from AD at the end of their enlistment they will transition into the Guard or Reserve at that point. 
A note or two :
-You will in most cases keep the rank that you have earned.
-You will also continue to earn point towards retirement with the Guard and Reserve.
Hopefully this provides a little relief in helping you decide what to do if you are on the list for Force Shaping.

Thanks so much, Dina!  If you’re interested in reading the actual regulation about the Palace Chase and Palace Front programs, check out AFI 36-3205.

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 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!

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.

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!