Last Friday, almost 13 years after I graduated from German Army basic military training, I graduated from United States Air Force Basic Military Training.
I was a former German tank commander and military training instructor in the Bundeswehr, serving as required for my native country. Now, I will be an air transportation specialist in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, serving my adopted country.
I like the military lifestyle. It is organized and has a structure. If you work hard, you can advance faster, go through the ranks, get more responsibility, and always learn something new. You always meet new people and get to move around the world.
I joined because I liked the military. I gave up my German military career so that my American wife, Julie, could have her U.S. Air Force career. I don’t regret my decision, as we have a beautiful family and a great life. But, I was missing the military, and I’m glad to have this opportunity to serve again.
Since I already served in the military, and since I was once an instructor myself, there weren’t really any surprises for me during U.S. Air Force BMT. I was reminded, though, about the importance of patience. Most of the trainees were much younger than me. They didn’t catch on to military lifestyle as fast as I wanted them to. I was picked as element leader in the first week, and it was easy to fall back into the instructor role. I knew I could do the things that were required, but the others were still learning. I had to slow down and be hands-on with helping others, teaching them to pay attention to detail.
There were many differences between German military basic training and U.S. Air Force basic training. At the time of my service, all young men had to serve. Not everyone wanted to be there. Eventually, everyone learned what they needed to learn and came together as a team. But in the U.S. military, everyone volunteers. While there were still attitude problems every now and then, ultimately, everyone wanted to be there, and I could sense the difference.
I am glad I have this second opportunity to serve again, and I look forward to my Air Force Reserve career.
PHOTO: Airman Basic Martin Weckerlein stands on the parade field with his family after graduating from Air Force Basic Military Training on April 12. Weckerlein was assigned to the 326th Training Squadron, Flight 270, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. (Courtesy photo)