30 April 2011

Why I serve

Sometimes being the only girl (and a Major) in my class here is a hard line to walk. I had a great conversation with my favorite Air Force mentor last night, and now I'm posting the follow-up email I sent him after morning formation this morning:


Thanks for a great conversation last night...it bled right into this morning's formation. I got to PT and a bunch of our officers seem to think they're TSgts...so it was the officers who were talking in formation, making awful jokes about everything, and just generally setting a horrible example. Then it was me (not the official leader) who pulled one of them aside (a Captain) and explained that when the guys think you're "just another NCO," that's really a bad sign. He was telling us about the first present he got from his guys when he was promoted to 1st Lt...it was a plaque that said something along the lines of "Congratulations" with a set of SSgt stripes with the 1st Lt bar pinned in the circle, since he was "one of the guys." He was proud of it. I was embarassed, and moreso because he was telling the story in front of one of our sharpest TSgts.

So the part that I really liked was the awesome TSgt who sits in front of me and this Captain in class looked back at the Captain today and said "Sir, your hair is out of regs." And instead of said Captain saying "thanks
for letting me know" he started making excuses..."well, I cut my own hair, so I'll take a look at it." Hmm.

I get that it feels good to be part of the team. I admit that I appreciate how much the vehicle ops guys here trust me. But I also know they respect me because I hold them accountable and I expect them to do the same for me. We had "the talk" today about when it is appropriate to salute (always). That stuff doesn't go away when we're in simulated combat...and if I want it to go away here, I'll be glad to let them know that it's time to stop. Rules and expectations serve a purpose, and they define us as members of the military.

It's so easy to lose perspective here with so few peers...but sometimes it's important to remember who I am and where I come from. To me, that means I have to remember that I'm not a 25-odd year old male SSgt vehicle operator war veteran who's been getting one over on the Air Force for a long time. And I have to remember that there is no glory in being the "cool" officer. I can be approachable and friendly and funny without being "one of the guys." The line can get blurry here far beyond what I will tolerate at home, but at the end of the day, I still can't be "Lisa" to the NCOs, even at the bar on a Saturday night. Or maybe that should say ESPECIALLY not at the bar on a Saturday night.

Like we've talked about so many times before, I've been getting ready for leadership like this for about 9 years...and now it's time practice the values the Air Force says I should have and make sure that those really do line up with the things in which I truly believe.

The proud Airman in me thinks that it's about time for the Air Force students to recite the Airman's Creed at one of these ridiculous Army formations. We keep watching the Navy (an awkward group of un-military-like reservists) hose the crap out of facing movements, standing at attention, not running their mouths in formation, and making zero attempt to stay in step. When our Airmen watch that, instead of holding the Navy  accountable, they tend to act like the Navy. Personally, I am proud to be an Airman...and prouder even now that I'm in a joint service environment.

Here's the excuse I got from the Captain this morning for his bad behavior. "Well, the Navy was all talking in formation, so I figured it was okay."

And what do you think my answer was? "Well, Captain X, we're not in the Navy and I expect you to set the good Air Force example." Not a whole lot of negotiating room when you break it right down like that...

29 April 2011

Life in a Trailer Park

Very high on my list of things I never expected to do...live in a trailer park.

If this isn't a funny picture to you, then, well, you probably don't have a sense of humor. Though I have to admit, I was impressed to find AC, flushing toilets and showers with hot water. Somehow I imagined myself sleeping in a tent.

The history of this base is incredible - during Vietnam, there were some million recruits who lived in Tigerland (which is where I am). These recruits, like me, were taught how to survive in combat. I love running down the roads here and imagining the throngs of men (and yes, they were all men) who were here before me.

I get that it's also important for you to visualize where I'm living. It's not an open bay dorm with zero privacy. I'm in a 6 person room and I'm the only one there...so this is my little bed in the far back corner of the room. It's nice, really. And the bed, well, by the time it's time to go to sleep, I'm so freaking tired that I could probably sleep on a pile of bricks...so I have no complaints. Yes, you read that right.

Otherwise, nothing significant to report...I'm a little bored (we have way too much free time on our hands) and I am in dire need of doing something very, very girly. I'll work on that here in the next few days. Here's a hint...doing pull-ups with the boys in the morning isn't my idea of a good time. I'll take a pedicure, thanks.

27 April 2011

Focusing on what's important

Today's a good reminder of what's really important. I woke up this morning feeling like my noodle arms were about to fall off. The Army had me hanging from a pull-up bar yesterday morning for PT, and today my arms are reminding me of why I joined the Air Force (and how much I can learn from the guys here).

We had a bunch of speed and agility drills this morning at PT, then Fish and I went for a quick run to stretch out our legs. Thank goodness there is someone else here who loves to run as much as I do. He does an excellent job keeping me sane.

We stumbled our way through breakfast, and I've been trying to keep a close eye on the guys to see who's gimping around after PT, who looks miserable about being here, and just doing the daily visual check-in. This morning I caught Tattoo with his ear to the cell phone much more often than usual.

He's stationed at a non-traditional Air Force unit in another southern state, and this morning his house was damaged by a tornado. The house is vacant (thankfully), but watching him struggle through the beginnings of an insurance claim from several states away was a somber reminder of the struggles we all have ahead. He's managing this challenge from the same time zone, in the same country. No one died. No one was severely injured. In the grand scheme, it's just property damage...something that when we really get down to it can be replaced.

I couldn't help but wonder, as I was watching him, what any leader can do in combat to console an Airman. Because, really, this is the simple stuff...property damage...and I had a tough time. So when it's the big stuff...like death...I wonder where I'll find the words.

26 April 2011

Remembering Where I Came From

Let's just call this what it was...a really tough day. It was Saturday morning, and I had hardly slept the night before. Three days earlier, I had confirmed that I was indeed deploying. I had just said goodbye to Rob and I was waiting in the line to have my passport checked at Frankfurt to take off on my amazing journey...but at the time, this journey didn't feel amazing at all.

Actually, I'm crying just sitting here looking at the picture (taken with an iPhone, so it's low tech). You can't see the tears in my eyes (thankfully) but it was impossibly hard to look up at Rob going up the escalator knowing that I wouldn't see him in person again for nine months. Yick. Even more terrible to be crying while wearing a uniform.

I guess the silver lining there was knowing that other families had a much more difficult challenge with kids and houses and bills...by comparison, my departure was relatively simple. Except, since you know me, you know I am awful at saying goodbye.

I'm still here in Louisiana and still loving every minute of it, but pictures like this one put me right back in my place. Yesterday I went out for a 5 mile run, followed by an 8 mile walk, followed by an afternoon in the sun just relaxing. Today I feel like someone stepped on me. But that still feels better than the memories of saying goodbye.

There are pictures of this new place called home, and I'll try to get my act together later and tell a few more stories and post some pictures of our luxurious Army-provided accomodations.