See that smiling girl, with the makeup-free face, pulled-back hair, and red identification bracelet [to spot friends from my FB May Shippers group]? The one sporting glasses during the daytime? That’s me of course, in my last few hours of civilian freedom. On 31 May 2011, my days of anticipation and preparation were over. My duffle bag was packed, my affairs were in order, and all I had to do was out-process at my unit and be on my way. It’s been a year since I left for Basic Military Training. When I left, I had the same anxiety, fears, eagerness, and optimism that you have as you await BMT. I was ready to start my new life already. I had been in the Delayed Entry Program for four months, the school year had come to a close, and I was ready. Well, as ready as I’d ever be! Just like you, I had my fair share of supporters/encouragers, as well as nay-sayers. At the age of thirty, I’m sure that some people may have thought my ship had sailed, or questioned why I was doing this after I’d already been teaching for five years. Those with few connections to the military may not have “gotten it,” why I had enlisted. Why now? To that I say, why not? It went as far as hearing that someone had stated, “You know, we all think she’s crazy.” For as many negative reactions, I got the same number of positive supporters. I had co-workers, friends, and family that were proud of me for making that selfless commitment to our country. They cheered me on as I tackled a running regime, sent me notes and gifts of encouragement, and followed this blog while close friends posted updates. My immediate family, my closest friends, they gave me the support and love that I needed on this journey. As much as their backing is appreciated, it’s not the most important factor to your success at BMT.
It boils down to you. Do you believe in yourself? Are you motivated to succeed? If so, are you willing to push yourself past comfort levels? Are you willing to put up with MTIs trying to break you with put-downs? I was yelled at early on for talking, told I looked awkward, had my leadership abilities questions, and threatened that I’d be recycled and sent home. When I was told by the MTIs that BMT would be the toughest challenge of my life, I blew it off. They weren’t joking. Whether or not it actually is for you is one thing, but it was significantly harder than I expected. Your age, your education, your job experience, your leadership experience – it doesn’t matter. It’s your strength of character that counts. Do you have it in you? Are you ready to earn the title of American Airman? BMT changed me, as it will change you. [Don’t worry, I didn’t lose my smile, as the photos may suggest!] Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do. My life has become infused with those Core Values. All of those positive qualities that I possessed before BMT shine a little brighter as a result of my journey. A strong sense of self-worth, pride in one’s accomplishment, confidence in one’s abilities. I watched the other females in my flight grow as leaders and as wingmen. Teamwork and shared experience gave me a new crop of life-long friends. I beamed, watching them stand tall and proud as I helped my MTI pass out Airman’s Coins on our graduation day. Where trembling trainees had stood on 31 May 2011, now there were Airmen – Warrior Airmen. I’ve been in your shoes. I wondered how I was going to survive long, hot summer days in San Antonio. I feared being recycled. I worried about being fired as a Dorm Chief and about whether I’d be able to do enough pushups for my PT test. I kept my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t become so sick that I’d be sent to the “fever flight.” I shed the occasional tear, like everyone else – when I was being blasted by a particularly intimidating MTI, when I failed myself on the shooting range. I always bounced back. I wasn’t letting anyone stop me, dissuade me, from achieving my goal, my dream. In those weak moments, remember: I’ve been in your shoes. We’ve been in your shoes.