Just a few days ago, I departed a city few Americans have heard of to spend the summer in the Central Alabama heat. As I look back over the last decade, a number of events led me to a place I never thought I’d be. As the world changed around me, I began my transition from adolescent foolishness to a career as an Air Force Weather Officer. I have already accomplished more than I ever thought I would, and my actions have had impacts across the globe.
On September 10, 2001, I was a naive college sophomore. I would sleep through class just to be able stay up all night. I was there for a piece of paper: my ticket to a good job and a lot of money. That was my big picture. After all, isn’t wealth what really matters?
It wasn’t that I was dim; I was enrolled in a Math program at Cornell University. I simply lacked insight into what was important. As was the case for most Americans, September 11th changed all that. Suddenly, making it to top in the corporate world didn’t seem imperative. I contemplated enlisting in the military then and there, but set out to graduate first.
As college progressed, I was determined to become more knowledgeable. I began to read more than just the assigned textbooks, became engaged with friends on political issues, traveled, and really started to think for myself. In the months leading up to graduation, the jobs I thought I wanted had no appeal. There was a desire to do something more.
I really didn’t understand what it meant to be a military officer on the day I walked into the Air Force recruiting office. No one in my family had served since my grandfathers fought in World War II, and they had both passed on long before I was born. I thought I would sign some paperwork, go to training, slap on the bars, and get to work killing terrorists. Fortunately, I had more determination than perspicacity, and allowed myself to be transformed over the following twelve weeks.
Initially, I hated Officer Training School (OTS). For the first time in my life, I was challenged to the point where failure seemed possible. In college, I was able to eat, sleep, and drink my way to a degree, but this was different. After about a week, my military bearing, or lack thereof, had earned me the nickname “OT Train Wreck”.
What I thought might turn out to be my biggest failure, actually became my greatest accomplishment. On December 16,, 2005, I stood on the stage in disbelief that my name has just been announced as Top Graduate. My class had been loaded with stellar men and women and, somehow, I stood out. I sometimes joke that my career peaked at OTS, but there is some truth to that statement. While I have, and will continue to, accomplish more...