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What is your Air Force story?

Posted 9/27/2011   Updated 9/27/2011 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Col. Billye Hutchison
14th Medical Group Commander

9/27/2011 - COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Let me tell you my quick story. I was 31, had been a Registered Nurse for seven years, saw the same faces every day, felt I was in a rut and wanted more than where I lived had to offer. I researched all sorts of options looking for the best career direction and location for me. My dad suggested the military and it sounded like something different that would provide a little adventure. I would also be able to move without having to start completely over with each new position. It was all about what a new job, possibly the military, could do for me.

I spoke to the Army medical recruiter first and knew immediately that was not the direction I wanted to take. I must admit, I was strongly leaning toward the Navy until they told me about a water survival course I would have to complete. Never a strong swimmer and with a great fear of water over my head, that decision was easy to make; the Navy wasn't going to happen. A short time later I spoke with the Air Force recruiter. He offered the promise of doing something new, somewhere new with opportunities for growth and education. I was intrigued since I was all about continued education to meet my personal goals. It seemed to be the right fit.

From the start, I was excited to join the Air Force. I respected the organization and what it represented and I was proud to be a part of it, but, to be frank, six months into my first assignment in a three-year commitment I was having serious doubts that I had done the right thing! The Air Force still offered the growth and education opportunities the recruiter and I had discussed but not necessarily when and how I wanted them. It was selfish of me to think the wide-open opportunities were just for me; they were to prepare me to meet the requirements the Air Force had for my specific nursing skills and officer development.

This required a transition in my thinking from all about me to what exactly did I bring to the Air Force and what did I need to do to better prepare me for the role the Air Force expected me to fulfill? It didn't mean leave behind personal goals, but it did mean I needed to find the right balance so personal satisfaction meshed with Air Force expectations and needs. It was time for me to change my selfish focus on "all about me" to something bigger. My contribution to the Air Force, from the beginning, were strong nursing skills and experience, well-defined values and a work ethic instilled by my parents that I was to always do what was right and to the very best of my abilities. One year into my commitment, I made the adjustment in my thinking from me to team.

What happened to those personal goals of education, experience and excitement? The Air Force provided all of that and more. In turn, I gave those gifts back to the Air Force as I have grown in the professional capacity the Air Force required of me. In each successive position and deployment I was prepared as a nurse, officer, and leader to meet patient needs and the needs of those I worked beside and led. I believe the broad experiences the Air Force has given me allow me to support our Air Force with researched and informed decisions to meet the needs of our Air Force family and our mission. It took me a year to figure it out but I finally realized it isn't about what the Air Force can do for me or you; it is about what we can accomplish together to continuously support our country and our service mission to Fly...Fight...Win.

Each of us comes into our Air Force by different routes with varied experiences and personal expectations. What is your Air Force story? I would offer one tidbit from my own experiences 21 years ago. During those frustrating and trying times, remember where you started in our Air Force. Hopefully you were a little scared and a lot excited at what could be ahead. Even if you are in your first year or two, look back at how you have personally grown and the numerous opportunities you have ahead to learn, explore and contribute your ideas to find better ways to meet our mission. Reflect on the great people you have met and learn from every day and the exciting future yet to come. After 21 years, the Air Force is still exciting. I am constantly learning, I meet great people everywhere I go and I am awed by the immense power our service provides to protect our country's freedom and aid others across the world to find their path to freedom. Give your best every day in your area of specialty and in your attitude and be proud of your team contributions that keep our Air Force the greatest Air Force in the world.

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