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Early Military Career
I joined the Air Force Delayed Enlistment Program while I was in my senior year of high school to get some money for college.  I insisted on a job in the electronics field and was offered "Tactical Aircraft Maintenance Specialist."  When I questioned it, I was promised, "You will deal with aircraft electronics."  Hey, it was true.  I felt a little cheated when I first figured it out, but that didn't last very long.  I think it's funny now and due to the flexibility, I really couldn't have imagined a better job.   If you can't fly 'em, fix 'em, and crew dogs are extremely multi-functional in the Air Force which allowed me to explore a lot of different jobs.  Unfortunately, in what would become standard military procedure, the rules changed during my delayed enlistment and the 10 months delayed didn't count I was promised it would.  I was also told (and I have the paperwork!) I would lock in my benefits as of my signing date, instead the new rules threw out the benefits of the Delayed Enlistment Plan, breaking the contract with those who had it.  Instead we all received the greatly reduced benefits given on our first day of basic training.  And they didn't even have to tell me.  Once again, this negative event helped me later.

MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) is an experience that only someone who has been through it can possible understand.  First, the disinfectant smell.  All the time, everywhere, you can't forget it.  There's so much disinfectant in the air, it almost burns your eyes.  You want to know what it means to be treated like cattle?  This is the place.  They poke, prod, and test you in every possible way, from the standard physical checks to lifting, hearing, color blindness, and depth perception.  Most of the time you shuffle from one line to another in your underwear.  Sometimes you take it off.  Want to see a room full of 18-year-old boys circle up, turn around, and bend over?  That's the rectal check   I honestly don't know which end is better to be on for that test.  MEPS is not a place to contemplate individual uniqueness or human dignity, but it gets the job done.

After basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas and basic tech school for crew chiefs in Sheppard AFB, TX, I was sent to a Field Training Detachment in Plattsburg AFB, upstate NY to learn how to be an FB-111 crew chief.  A few months later my training was over and I was stationed at Pease AFB.  I did indeed deal with aircraft electronics--I turned aircraft power on and off, checked circuit breakers and changed light bulbs.   Sometimes I opened up panels so the electronics guys could get to their stuff underneath.  Since I like change, I also volunteered for a variety of maintenance support roles.  One of these got me working on the Vice President / Presidential Support Team for President Bush. F-111 Afterburner.jpg (7121 bytes)

When Pease closed, I had a choice:  England or Out.  I was interested in going overseas and had even considered a career in the military.  But given the reduced benefits I would receive, and since England for two years was not condusive to my completing a degree, I Palace Chased out and joined the 161st Air Refueling Wing in Phoenix, Arizona.  I became a KC-135E crew chief on the weekends and got a part time job working civil service as a Maintenance Analyst.  I did that for five years, including the Rodney King riots, Mississippi flooding, and Desert Shield/Desert Storm.  Joining the ANG was one of the best things that happened to me in the military.  I got to help people directly and meet some of them face-to-face.   We volunteered time on the side and did civic projects, including sponsoring families, and helping rebuild a school kitchen/soup kitchen in the 'bad' part of town.   Plus, I would still get my retirement at the same age as if I had stayed in active duty.

After graduating from college I came to the 136th Airlift Wing, Hensley Field (Dallas Naval Air Station) and worked as a C-130 crew chief in Phase Dock.   More rounding experience.  After a few months in Phase Dock, I transferred up to Maintenance Control.  Due to the wide experience I'd had in the maintenance field, they were glad to have me, and it helped me gain experience in yet another area.  After a year there, I interviewed and was accepted for the Civil Engineering/Disaster Prep slot.  Manning documents changed and I'm not the OIC of Engineering Flight and looking for a new home where I'm not an overage.  We have also completed our move from Hensley Field to the Carswell Joint Reserve Base.


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Reduced Benefits:  Remember the stories of retiring after 20 years Active Duty, and free medical and dental for the family?  Gone.  You can get out after 20 years, but you don't collect anything until 60 or 65 (reports differ; I don't know for certain).  I told our Personnel flight about it at Pease AFB and no one believed me.  I had to get an old copy of the Air Force Times to prove it.   Free medical and dental for the family?  You're essentially in an HMO now, one that many retirees complain isn't accepted because it pays so little doctors turn it down.  Another example of problems in the military:  The base housing at Pease AFB that was good enough for the military was deemed unfit to be used for human habitat when the government investigated them for use as low-income housing.

There are a variety of issues and challenges facing the military today, compounded by having to compete for people  with a great economy that pays more and offers less time in far away countries getting shot at by people you don't know for reasons you don't understand, and only now are the leaders admitting them. (We'll be out of Bosnia by Christmas, 1995....)   I wouldn't trade my military years away, and all the people I've worked with have been great and dedicated, but the top levels of the military have to find a balance between the mission and the people.  If you focus on the mission, your people leave.  If you focus on your people, the mission doesn't get done.  If people can't figure out what you're focusing on, you lose everything.

For a barometer on how people in the military feel, click here:   Military Opinions