I was walking through my office building the other day and overheard several young Airmen discussing how much they hated the location of their current assignment. Everything imaginable about the area was thrown out on the table: it’s so hot here, the amusement parks are always crowded, it’s so far from a big city, it’s too big of a city, and on and on they went.
I’ll admit that I was more than a little shocked. How could they possibly think that way? I wondered.
Growing up in a military family, I moved every two years like clockwork, including a tour overseas. I can’t relate to someone who has grown up with the same friends throughout their school years. I spent most of my time in school being the “new girl.”
I no longer envy their lifestyle like I did when I was younger. I spent time in several foreign countries and lived in multiple states and cities — something I have come to appreciate through my time in college and during my active duty life.
Being in the Air Force means you travel often. You travel to training, to technical school, to professional military education, to more training, to your first base, and on and on it goes. This travel can be across the country, to the next state or even around the world.
With all of this travel comes a unique opportunity many people go their whole lives without experiencing. We get to experience other cultures.
Sure, there are Airmen who haven’t left the United States who are sitting at their desk wondering, “What culture? I’m in Ala-stinking-bama.” But, culture is more than just foreigners speaking a different language or dressing in clothing unlike our own. Culture is art, literature, food and music. Culture is always in motion. I like to think of it as the energy that flows in each unique group of people. It’s what makes them..well..them!
My first assignment was to Barksdale Air Force Base, La. It came as a surprise — the base wasn’t even listed on my assignment sheet. Oh well! I had lived in Louisiana growing up, so I figured I’d be familiar with the traditions of the city. Wrong! I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the area. The same area that hosted a farmers market in the morning also boasted a jazz festival in the evening. Now, I went into that assignment a little hesitant. After all, who hasn’t heard of the base nickname being “Bark-atraz”? Still, I didn’t let that keep me from having an open mind about the area. The sense of community at that assignment was unrivaled, and the Shreveport-Bossier area enhanced the experience even more.
Fast forward to my next assignment in San Antonio, Texas. The culture here includes the lively Riverwalk with sizzling fajitas and boisterous mariachi bands serenading the crowds. It also means cowboy boots and rodeos, the Majestic Theatre and the symphony. Think of the vibrantly colored foods, countless festivals and parades…the city absolutely buzzes with energy and is saturated with culture. How could you not enjoy an assignment here? Sure, it’s hot. Lots of places are hot. Some places are cold (howdy, Minot Air Force Base, N.D.!). Some places are windy, or crowded, or in the middle of nowhere (who’s heard of Cannon AFB, N.M.?).
The point is not every base is going to be at the top of your dream sheet, and at some point in your career, you’ll probably get assigned to a base that wasn’t even listed on your sheet. Will you be happy with it? Probably not, but you’ll still have to go. It’s part of what we signed up for.
So here’s the challenge. Get up and get out there! There is no sense in complaining about where the Air Force has stationed you, because you’re there, like it or not. You might as well enjoy a little food and fiesta while you’re at it!
PHOTO 1: Airmen and their families use hay to make scarecrows during the 15th Annual Fall Festival, Sept. 21, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jose L. Hernandez)
PHOTO 2: Shane Black and Kyle Holt, Outdoor Recreation employees, ride through a deep mud puddle Aug. 17, 2013. The pair was with the F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., Outdoor Recreation as the chaperones for an ATV adventure at Albany Lodge, Albany, Wyo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle)