I spent a few years in the US Air Force. It was a big event in my life and while it took up only a small portion of it, the things I learned resonate today for me. To anyone reading this who is considering joining, DO IT! Don’t think about it too much, don’t worry about what a recruiter may say. Decide on a branch and a general field that you could be good at and then, sign the papers. I’ll explain.
I went in under a general mechanic field. I figured they would place me where my scores indicated I would do well in. For me that was mechanical. After a few days or maybe it was weeks at Basic Training, they take you to a room and you get to read about different fields you could take based on your scores. Then you picked what you wanted in order of preference. I can’t remember all of my choices anymore. However, I remember my top two choices. Tactical Aircraft Maintenance and Aircraft Armament Systems. The first is commonly known as crew chief. We called them glorified gas station attendants. The second was weapons troop, or Load Toad. I got my second choice and was very happy with it.
I was assigned to work on F-16 weapon systems, specifically, with an overview of all others as well. I was also certified to work on what then was the YF-22. What this meant was I maintained the weapons systems of the aircraft. The 22MM Cannon, The bomb release systems, the missile rails, as well as the weapons that went in or on them all. I also had to go to “Load Barn” once a month and certify on all the different things having to do with my job. Loading each munition type, testing equipment and general safety procedures. Along the way learning about all of the really cool explosives, come on admit it explosives are cool. I learned a few other things. These are the things I have carried with me.
Teamwork- It’s hard to reload, rearm and refuel an Aircraft in 11 minutes if you and everyone else scurrying around the plane aren’t working as a team. In the world after the military having good teamwork skills will be a very valuable asset to an employer. You know what a team is and how it works, you know that it is the best way to get things done and you will build a team around yourself because of it.
Trust – The flightline is a very dangerous environment to work in. You have to trust the people you work with, and they have to trust you. In any job trusting your co-workers is an important factor. Knowing when someone tells you something is done that it is, and done right is a huge thing. Many of us don’t have that in our workplaces now, imagine if you did though. People will rely on you because of this, it makes you very valuable.
Detail- Everything had to be an exact specific way, torque on the missile rails, the length of the wire, anything less and you, your friends, the pilot and the aircraft could all be in danger. Misplacing a ratchet could result in shutting down the entire squadron. Detail was everything. In the civilian world this is a huge thing to have on your side. Attention to detail will make you stand out. Not only did you do it right but you did it perfectly, missed nothing and people will love you for it.
These three things are the ones that really stayed with me. Whatever job you have you need teamwork. You have to trust those around you, and attention to details is what makes you the most valuable. Join the military have these things instilled into your bones. You won’t regret it, I never have.