01 April 2012

A New Chapter For Both of Our Careers

December was the last time anyone's posted in this blog. Is anyone even out there anymore? I should really try and get Dan to contribute more... and yes, I need to remember this blog is here for me to update as well.

April 1st. This will definitely not be an April Fool's blog post. Everything will be true, I promise.

Dan is officially an ALS instructor. ALS stands for Airmen Leadership School. It is a requirement for enlisted Airmen to attend this Professional Military Education (aka PME) course before they pin on E-5. That pay grade is a crucial point in an Air Force enlisted member's career because they are finally at that supervisor level. The six week course is designed to teach Airmen the essential tools needed to be an effective supervisor. Bullet writing for EPRs (Enlisted Performance Reports), how to give briefings, conducting feedback sessions, how to adjust your approach for different personalities, etc. Of course it doesn't have everything a young soon-to-be supervisor needs in order to be a stand up Staff Sergeant in today's Air Force, but it's a start.

From about a month, Dan was away at Maxwell AFB, Alabama learning how to be an instructor for PME courses in our great Air Force. Developing lesson plans, reinforcing key points, keeping your class on task; Dan learned it all and all of the rules and regulations that go along with being a military "teacher". Just this past Thursday, he attended his first ALS graduation banquet as the newest ALS instructor. Next week he'll finally start "co-instructing" his first ALS class and begin learning the material along with the students and start figuring out what it is to be an instructor. It'll be at least three class cycles before he teaches his own class alone, but it's still exciting. I'm curious as to how his schedule will be and whether or not I'll want to attend any of the graduation banquets with him. It was one thing for his coworkers to find out who I am, but students are a whole different ballgame.

A new chapter has begun in my military career since the last post as well. I am officially going through an MEB, or a medical evaluation board. It's finally happened. I almost went through one back in 2008, but for some strange reason it just never really "took off" and sort of halted before anything could really be looked into. This MEB started in January with the discovery of my adult-onset asthma. Yes, the dreaded "a" word. The "a" word in the military is a huge no-no. Anyone hears that you may have asthma, it's grounds for separation. Back in the day, if you had asthma in the Air Force, they simply coded you in your medical records with a "C" and they returned you to duty. The "C" simply meant that you had a medical condition that would not allow you to deploy. Nowdays, if you have asthma, the military will do their best to control it, but if it's too bad, then they will medically separate you or even retire you. Cases are rare, but it happens. The last person I've known to be medically retire for having asthma wasn't even in the military for a year. She was a girl in my squadron who was training to be a loadmaster. I think she had only been on station maybe 4 months, had trouble with her PT tests and BAM! Next thing you know, she's being medically separated. Don't remember if she just hid it while going through MEPS, BMT, and tech school (it happens a lot), but she had the breathing issues here and that was the medical boards' decision.

Apparently, the heavy breathing I've always experienced when running long distances is not normal (so they told me during the breathing tests). Since my brother, dad, and members on my dad's side have asthma, that makes me prone to developing asthma later in life. Thanks. This issue added on top of my slow progressing right knee is grounds for my MEB. I don't know how quick everything will go, but for now I can tell you that it's going very slowly. The last thing I heard on the progress of my MEB package was that my acting first shirt helped with the commander's letter to the board. For me, it's pretty much the "hurry up and wait" game.

Other than that, military life has been the same here. While Dan was gone, we tried to FaceTime every night if he wasn't bogged down with studying for a test or creating a lesson plan and if both kids were in a good mood to just sit still and chat. The ops tempo in my squadron has slowed a bit which I'm actually enjoying for a change. I'm usually antsy when I'm not working constantly; I like staying busy, but this time I'm loving that I can slow down and just be... a slacker. Sounds so strange to me, but I am. I find myself pushing things off at work because I can. Instead of doing something right away, sometimes I'll wait until right before lunch or maybe after lunch to do it... just because I can since we are all caught up. It's a great feeling.

If only I can get that way in the household. There's always something that could be cleaned, washed, organized, or changed. Too bad we didn't hit that $640M jackpot. I would've hired a cleaning lady. :)

18 December 2011

Service Before Self


Meet the Del Rio family. That's my commander presenting them with a check for $5,700. All of it was through fundraisers and donations from my squadron. There are seven people not present in this picture, all of them kids with the oldest being seventeen and the youngest just one year old. So why did we raise this money for them?

Heidi, my commander's wife, heard of Mr. Del Rio's story and was so incredibly moved that she made it a mission to "adopt" this family for the holiday season. She is one of the most generous and kind people I've ever met in my life, so it wasn't really a surprise to me that she wanted to do this. Heidi sent out an email a couple months ago explaining what happened to Rafael Del Rio's sister. After the horrific tragedy, Mr. Del Rio stepped up and without question or second thoughts, took in his sister's four children to raise them as his own.

Over the past couple months, the spouses' club has been selling home made key chains and soliciting businesses for gift cards for the Del Rio family. During our squadron's annual Thanksgiving meal, the spouses' club held a silent auction which brought in $2,500!

The one thing that the family wanted for Christmas was to be able to take the whole family to Disneyland. This would be a way to celebrate a new beginning and to bring the family together. With the money that was raised, Heidi announced that the Del Rio family would be going to Disneyland for three days and four nights, staying on the Disneyland property at one of their three hotels, and have spending cash and the gift cards!

It was amazing listening to my commander talk about how he was impressed with what we were all able to do. He was very proud of my squadron for coming together and doing this for the Del Rio family. Stories like this just touch your heart, especially during the holidays.

I wish the Del Rio family the best for the future!

08 October 2011

Thanks for.... nothin'?

We have a lot of good friends and mentors are retiring in the next few months. They've dedicated anywhere between 20 to 30 years to the Air Force and it's finally time for them to hang up the uniform. As they prepare for their transition to the civilian side of life, it makes me wonder; is the military selfish when it comes to their people?

We receive great benefits for serving our country-travel, health care, education, experience, job security... but does the military really care about their people? Sure, so long as you're doing your job and keep signing on that dotted line to give your life to Uncle Sam. BUT--when it's the end of the line, how much will Uncle Sam continue to take care of you? Does the military really show us how much they've appreciated what we've done during our tenure in the service and take care of us when we stop wearing the uniform?

Retirements can be a wonderful thing in the military being that the majority us joined right out of high school and because of that it that allows us to retire while we're still young (40s)... BUT now that the big boys up at capitol hill have started talking about messing around with our retirement benefits, it may not be as sweet later down the line for future military members if they have their way. Politicians, majority of them with no military background, take us for granted. We work for Uncle Sam (aka them, the government, the politicians) and they feel as if they can have their way with us and we'll go along with it with no complaints since we signed the dotted line, not realizing that their actions impact so much more than just saving a few dollars in the budget.

Medical care seems to go down when you no longer have the uniform on. True, civilians think that because we have free healthcare that it's awesome for us, but our healthcare system in the military isn't the best. "Vitamin M" bka Motrin 800 is usually the cure all for everything, long wait times for appointments to see specialists, and you aren't guaranteed to always see your "assigned" physician. In most cases when you find a great doc, it's difficult to keep going back to them because they're either booked right away because everyone else has discovered the awesome doc, they TDY or deploy, or even worse, they PCS. Let's not even start talking about dental care... I two words for active duty dental care- bloody painful. I haven't been to a base where the dental techs are gentle on their patients. No matter how great your dental hygiene is, you are destined to leave the dental office bleeding.

In no way am I trying to imply that our military doesn't appreciate what its veterans have done during their time in the service. I only wish that we could take better care of our military members once they obtain their "blue" card (retiree military ID cards are blue). Our members on the way to the civilian lifestyle could use more resources to help smooth the transition even more than what's already readily available to military members leaving for the other side, the civilian side.

My observation is that once you leave, the military doesn't watch you walk away, waving and smiling. It seems that they downgrade your membership, show you the door, and turn around to focus their efforts on convincing the young-ins to stay for a full 20 (who happen to be your replacements) so that they can make sure they get their money's worth that was paid to train them. I'm still proud to be a military member, but wish the military would show a little more gratitude and make it a give and take relationship. Or even better, I wish Uncle Sam would let the military be in control of the military.

02 August 2011

Random Acts - Opening Doors

One Saturday morning, I went on base with both kids to let dan sleep in. Still sleepy-eyed and in sweats, we drove on base. We went to get breakfast at coffee place near the BX. Even though there's a Starbucks about 50 feet to the right, this coffee shop has the best breakfast sandwiches and has managed to stay open. Thank goodness, because it would be a shame to lose the one great place you can get a quick breakfast on base that isn't Burger King.

After we placed our order, we sat down and watched people come and go as we waited for our food. A group of Airmen came in, all young Senior Airmen (E-4 pay grade in the Air Force), ordered and took a seat at the table right next to the door. They were joking around, chit chatting about their upcoming shift for the day. I noticed from their badge that they were aircraft maintainers.

One of the baristas called out our sandwich orders and I went to go pick it up from the counter while Genie stood by her brother near the door. I walked over to my munchkins and asked Genevieve to carry the bag of breakfast sandwiches so that I could carry Sebastian in his car seat. We started to make our way towards the door and as I was about to open the door, Sebastian started kicking his legs and caused me to throw off my balance and grip. He's such a big baby that his slightest shift in weight in his carries, I'm totally thrown off! :) One of the Airmen at the table close to the door took notice since he was facing our direction. He looked at the guy sitting across from him who had his back to us and gave him a stern look. I heard the Airman say, "What?!" after he noticed he was getting the look from his friend.
"Don't be a jerk, open the door for the lady!"
The Airmen that had his back to us finally caught on.
He got up out of his seat and opened the door. Genie walked to the door, looked up at the Airman and thanked him. I thanked him as well and thanked his friend that insisted he help us.

31 July 2011

Dog tags...

Should not be used as an accessory. Before I came into the military I never thought much of them whenever I'd spot a girl wearing them. I knew that when I saw them, I knew it meant the girl's boyfriend was in the military. I did imagine that I would've done the same thing if I was dating a military member.

After my first deployment, my view about wearing dog tags changed completely.

If you don't know what dog tags are used for in the military, they are used for identification purposes. When we go out on deployments, they are mandatory for us to wear. They are very important for our brothers and sisters at arms that go out on the front lines. God forbid something terrible happens and the member's blouse is destroyed to where the name is unrecognizable, the dog tags are used to identify the body. We are issued two dog tags, one on a ball chain long enough to be worn as a necklace and the second one is on a smaller chain, connected to the first. Some units require the dog tag on the small chain be attached to the laces of one of their boots.

Now, after explaining the reason dog tags are issued and their intended purpose, I understand some girls may wear them thinking it might luck to their boyfriend on their deployment; if they wear it then they'll come back safely. I think most girls wear them as an accessory and to kind of show off. Their boyfriend or fiancé is deployed and dog tags are easily identified as belonging to someone in the military, thus making them a conversation piece. The meaning behind dog tags is very somber and females going around with them as an accessory just doesn't sit right with me. Not to mention the HUGE fact that all dog tags have social security numbers engraved on them right underneath the member's full name! With identity theft being a huge issue in this day and age, what would happen if the service member's girlfriend lost them?

You may not agree with my views on wearing dog tags as an every day necklace, But please respect the reason why we are issued them and why they are important.

02 June 2011

Random Acts - Caramel Frappachino

Lately there have been things, nothing too big, that have happened and make me smile or scratch my head. Either I'm in uniform and the act is from/by a civilian or I'm out of uniform and the act is from/by a military member.

I haven't decided if I will make this a weekly post like most bloggers to with "Wordless Wednesday," "Picture Friday," and so on, but I will post ones that stand out to me, both good and bad.

One day after work, I decided to go to Starbucks for a Frappachino. Sure, it was late in the day and I didn't need a pick me up, but it was just one of those warm days and I was simply in the mood for one. I drove to the one closest to our house that had a drive through since I had both kids with me. There was a gold Lexus in front of me, driven by a women who looked to be in her forties. I could see her in her side mirror and smiled even though I thought she probably couldn't see me.

I ordered my caramel Frappachino and waited until it was my turn to approach the window to pay. Genevieve was singing at the top of her lungs making Sebastian laugh. I finally pulled up to the window and the barista handed me the Frappachino. I held out my five dollar bill and he simply shook his head.
"Oh, it's free. The lady in front of you wanted to pay and also thank you for your service."
"Oh wow, thanks. Can you just put my $5 towards the person behind me then? Thank you."

I have experienced people paying for my drink order at Starbucks, but only around the holidays when people are more in the giving mood. When it happens to me, I automatically like to pay it forward to the person after me. I was shocked and proud at the same time. I've always been a proud military member and honored to wear the uniform; I was shocked because since we've moved to California, we don't really encounter people that are grateful for those of us in the military the way those in the South are.

Just hearing that she was thankful for my service was enough, but her random act of kindness definitely put a smile on my face.

09 April 2011

Is there a 'Supervising for Dummies'?

If you have never been a supervisor, you won't be able to follow this post.

If you're just starting out as a supervisor, you might be able to relate to this post.

If you are a supervisor that actually does what you're supposed to do as a supervisor, you'll probably nod your head agreeably while reading this post.

Since the start of the new year, the both of us have had some interesting situations pertaining to our subordinates. More so with Dan than myself, but it has definitely been quite the learning experience. Just when you think you have some kind of grasp on what it is to be a supervisor, got the hang of leading your troops (subordinates to use the "official" term), you're thrown a curve ball that you were not expecting.

As much as we would like to think that everyone has common sense and was raised to know right from wrong and make good choices, this is not always the case. The thing is, in the military, there is very little room for those that want to stray from the straight and narrow path. The Airmen that embody the image of the ideal Air Force member are recognized and rise up the ranks. Those that trip up and make a mistake and continue to make mistakes (whether on purpose or not) actually do receive help... help to exit the Air Force as fast as possible.

Now the role of a supervisor is kind of like being a parent; you train the way you would nurture a child, you give feedback and evaluate performance similar to praising your children when they do right or explaining why they did wrong. You are not obligated to really care about your subordinates, but generally a good supervisor does. While the similarities between supervisor and subordinate and parent and child are apparent, it is important to remember not to get too wrapped up with your subordinates. They work for you and are learning from the examples you set.  If you allow them to get too close because you took it upon yourself to care for them too much, then the roles of boss and subordinate can be blurred and unrecognizable and the respect as the supervisor can be lost.

"Your Airman's actions are a direct reflection of your supervising skills."

That's a pretty damn bold statement. A perfect reason why lately it has been challenging for the both of us these past few months. As much as we strive to be at least decent supervisors, we know that we cannot make decisions for our airmen, let alone think for them. We do our best to inspire and keep our airmen on track in their careers and helping make the mission move.

Now think about that statement for a minute. When a young supervisor (and yes, we're still young supervisors even with 2-3 years under our belts) has a troop that gets into trouble, how do you think they feel? Especially a supervisor that genuinely cares about their troops and only wants them to succeed in the AF? Pretty shitty, if you could imagine. The thought process surrounds questions like Where did I go wrong? and What could I have done differently to prevent this? You feel like a failure when your airmen fail. Regardless of the fact that it was their decision and their actions alone that resulted into them getting into trouble, the feelings of disappointment in yourself still seep into your brain.

It will probably take a few years for either of us to be able to prevent those thoughts and feelings from occurring whenever we find ourselves with an airman that got into some deep doo-doo.  It may take us a few more unpleasant instances for us to learn how to dedicate our time and focus not just on what our troops need, but the best interests of the Air Force.  For now, we're doing what we know how to do best and taking notes from our bosses and mentors we look up to.  If only there were an easier way...

05 January 2011

2011 is here...

A new year is upon us and already the both of us have been busy with work. This time of year is always busy for me with aircrew training and Dan has tons of inspections to finish in his shop. Even more important than our work is promotion-we both received our test dates for E-6 and are beyond nervous. I test Feb 4th and Dan is on Feb 9th. Yea, so much for having a late test date. We don't have much time left to study.

This testing cycle will be #3 for me and Dan's first time testing for Tech*. I knew there was no shot for me last year being that most of my study time was spent either puking or trying to sleep off nausea (I was plagued with morning sickness), but this year I actually care about making it or missing it by 10 instead of 30. Having Sebastian makes it difficult to focus because I just want to spend every waking moment with him while he's awake and sometimes try to sleep with him while he's napping. Either way, Dan and I both need to buckle down and really start studying hard core. Dan is being ambitious and hoping that he makes it his first time. While I am supporting his goal, I secretly hope he doesn't make it this year. We are competitive when it comes to achievements and promotions. ;) I've managed to have a leg up being that I have 2 years TIS* on him, but since I haven't made Tech yet, he has a fighting chance to outrank me. :p

Besides the obvious military change we'll be experiencing this year(the repel of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" means that the transition has begun), we also have a chance at orders. We've been overseas eligible since last year but due to my pregnancy there was no real chance we'd be selected. Hopefully we'll be picked up for an assignment in Europe, but of course nothing is certain in the assignment game. Our dream sheets are up to date and all we can do now is sit back and wait for the assignment cycles to open up (there are 4 a year). The both of us really want to be stationed in the UK, especially after our visits there with the herk community. Sure people have told us that the weather there isn't exactly ideal, but why focus on the weather? The fact that I can shop in London, catch a short flight to Paris, and sight-see all around Europe when I'm not working is a huge incentive to living there!

With all of that, I hope that 2011 is even more prosperous for us than last year was!

Happy New Year!

*Tech- short for Technical Sergeant
*TIS- Time In Service

18 December 2010

Finally, one full year....

Today marks the first full year that Dan and I have been at home together. I actually never thought we'd have this until next year or the year after.

Our relationship started off long distance. In 2006 we met at Pope AFB and after one month together, we knew we wanted to be with each other forever and vowed to make it work. I PCS'd to Travis and he was off on his second deployment. We made our best efforts to visit each other whenever we could. By the time we got married in June 2008, we had spent a cumulative total of 3 months and 5 days together, in the flesh. With what we went through and survived during the first 2 years of our relationship, we know first hand that long distance relationships can work. We both loved each other so much that it helped us get through the loneliness of being apart.

Dan moved here to California September 2008 and we thought we'd finally be able to just be together and not worry about deployments. Back at Pope working with herks, we worried about rotations every 4 months. Here we don't have to worry about deployments that often unless we volunteer since the planes we work with don't deploy. We were foolish to be so naive. 8 months on station and they chose Dan to go on a high profile TDY for almost 3 weeks. OK, no big deal. He was still stateside, just 3 hours ahead. He returned in June and after being home for almost a month, he gets the news that they need him to deploy... the very next month.

Oy. August of last year, he deployed back to the desert that he thought he'd never have to see again (unless we went back to herks). It was the roughest deployment we'd ever endured being that before he left we were finally living together, seeing each other every single day. When we didn't have the luxury it was easier for him to deploy because to me, it meant that instead of being 3 hours behind that I'd be 11 or 12 hours behind. This time it meant sleeping alone, our routines being way off, and back to just being a single mom. When he returned, it was the absolute best day that year.

Being pregnant this year did have an advantage when it came to keeping him home. His boss at work every now and then would talk about needing Dan to deploy again but of course would be quick to say he was joking (ha ha). There were a couple TDYs that were close calls but someone would volunteer last minute and my stress levels would lower again knowing that Dan wouldn't miss anything during the pregnancy.

I am just so damn grateful that we finally have one full year side by side.

*Greeting Dan at the airport gate this day last year

12 December 2010

I'll still take it.


Not a big number by any means, but it is still a number. For those that don't follow news concerning the military, the Obama administration has approved a 1.4% pay raise for us next year. This is the lowest raise since 1962. As much as this is a pretty shitty raise, I'll still take it.

Those of us that don the military uniform every day are part of a population that is under appreciated and definitely does not receive the respect or recognition deserved. Anyone that volunteers to sign their life away to Uncle Sam, whether it is for four years or 20 years, should be applauded and praised for the sacrifices they make or have already made. Even though the military still faces ridicule and people protesting what we do, those serving our country are proud to wear the uniform and protect those that don't support our mission.

Sure, the pay raise we're getting January 1st is pretty shitty compared to the past, but I'll still take it. I know that there is still a gap between military pay and civilian pay, but I will gladly take what I can get. In a time when the economy is still struggling and people that were laid off are still scratching their heads because no one will hire them, I am fortunate to be where I am. The military will still take care of me and my family by guaranteeing my paycheck every 1st and 15th of every month, provide health care (even though it isn't as top notch as most civilians think), and make sure that I have a roof over my head and food in my stomach by providing me an allowance for both.

It would be nice to get another 3.4% pay raise like last year, or even the 2.7% raise from 2007. Yes, 1.4 is a low number, but it is still a number and a raise is guaranteed. We should all be thankful that we are at least getting one.