Friday, January 4, 2013

1 Year Later

Wow, I suck at keeping a blog up to date!

Just like last time, I'm here at Maxwell AFB.  But not everything has stayed the same.  The biggest change: divorce!

Not everybody knew this before, but things weren't going so well with me and the wife.  Without airing all my dirty laundry, I'll just say that somebody in the marriage thought one spouse wasn't enough and went and found some other husband.  Anyway, after 4 years of marriage, I felt trapped by the situation I was in.  A wife that didn't seem to care about me anymore, living in my in-law's house (which, I should add, involved being in the worst living conditions I've ever seen), and working at a job that didn't have room for me to grow.  Many people were shocked when I told them I was suddenly joining the Air Force, but to me, it was a simple way to escape.

And now I'm free!

Don't get me wrong, I didn't join the Air Force JUST to run away.  The benefits are great, the education and training I'm getting are going to serve me well, and the pay isn't bad.  Because I came in married, I live in a house on-base that's a 1-minute walk from work, so I don't have to pay for gas most of the time.  My coworkers are awesome; my supervisors are awesome; my job is awesome.  I'm finally surrounded by people who are like me and have many of the same hobbies and interests.  We all get together to play games on a regular basis.

Life is grand.

But, since some people out there on the internet might be reading because they want to know about Air Force stuff, let me go into the pros and cons of getting divorced after joining.  Here goes:

PRO: I don't live in the dorms.  Normally, an airman arrives at his first base and is given a room in the dorms.  They generally aren't allowed to live anywhere else until they get higher rank and are forced out by the newer, low-ranking airmen coming in.  I'm sure it varies from base to base, but here you're pretty much guaranteed to be in the dorms until after you've been a Senior Airman (E4) for a little while.  For those that don't know, the fastest you can hit Senior Airman is if you come in with advanced rank (due to college, ROTC, or the like) and get an early Below-the-Zone promotion, and then it still takes a minimum of 22 months.  For most people, they're looking at 28 months as an E3, or 36 months total in the Air Force.  Long story short, you'll probably be stuck in the dorms for 2-3 years.  If you've lived on your own before already, this can be a real drag.

CON: Since I'm no longer married, my house on-base isn't fully paid for.  When you're in the military, you get something called BAH, or Basic Allowance for Housing.  It's the amount of money the government thinks average housing should cost for somebody like you.  It's based on your rank, where you live, and whether or not you're single.  While I was still married, I got dependent-rate BAH.  On base housing costs the exact amount of dependent-rate BAH.  Now that I'm divorced, my BAH has dropped by about $200 a month.  The base housing cost has not changed, so I'm paying that out of pocket.  However,

PRO: I lucked into better housing!  A married couple is only supposed to get a 2-bedroom house.  There weren't any, so I'm in a 3-bedroom house.  It's awesome!  And...

PRO: Housing on Maxwell AFB is privatized.  Why does that matter?  Well, since the housing is privately owned and operated, I have a contract with the housing company.  Had the housing been owned and operated by the Air Force, they would have said "oh hey, you're single again.  Get back in the dorms or move off base!"  While, yes, I could probably save money by getting a smaller place off-base, I love my house on-base.  Prior to enlisting, I had to drive 30 minutes to work everyday.  I filled up my gas tank at least once a week as a result.  Now I walk to work and go a couple months at a time without buying gas.  It's totally work the extra money for the house.

Potential CON: I'm told that, due to a law protecting the rights of spouses, that had I been married for 10 or more years that my ex-wife would've been entitled to half.  Of everything.  Including retirement.  You've been warned.

CON: You can't date until you're REALLY divorced.  Military law prohibits adultery.  As far as that goes, the only states that a person can be in are Single or Married.  Separated isn't an option.  There was about a year gap between us agreeing to divorce and it being legally in effect, due to saving up for lawyers and waiting for papers to be filled out, sent back and forth, and filed.  During that year, it was tempting to go out and try to date around.  However, I was acutely aware that doing so was technically a violation of the UCMJ and could potentially get me in trouble.  The odds of somebody actually going after me for it were slim, but I'm a tad paranoid and didn't dare risk it.

But that about sums it up.  Ultimately, being married in the Air Force isn't much different from being single in the Air Force.  The real changes were for my ex-wife, who now doesn't get sweet military insurance, nor does she get to live in my sweet on-base housing.  In the end, the lesson is this: one husband is plenty.  'Nuff said.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

First duty station!

I'm currently sitting in Maxwell AFB, Alabama.  I've been here about a week and I'm still settling in, but so far I love it!

I have so much more freedom to do what I want here.  Yes, I have to get up and go places, but it's less like the somewhat strict military environment of tech school and more like a standard 9 to 5 job.  I work a 9 hour day with a 1 hour lunch break, with PT included in that work day.  Outside of that, I can do whatever I want.  Since I'm married, I'll be in base housing soon.  Unlike tech school, there are no room inspections to deal with, so I don't have to make my bed every morning before work, I just jump up and walk out the door.  It's FANTASTIC!

The people I work with have been very nice so far.  They all know it's like to be the new guy, and they've done everything they can to help me.  They've invited me out to dinner and have helped get me settled in on base.  Thus far it's been a really welcoming experience.  I was nervous before coming here, but everybody is so nice.  If you're about to go to your first duty station, don't worry.  Everybody I've talked to from tech school said they were welcomed with open arms at their first base.

The only disappointing thing is that I, understandably so, am unable to do any REAL work as of yet.  The system they work on here is, of course, incredibly large and isn't something I can learn in a day.  Until they get me acquainted with it they're not going to trust me with anything, so for now I'm just studying and practicing with the few things I can do.  It's just like being new at any job, you have to work your way through the learning curve before you're REALLY part of the team.  I'm just glad that the team I'm becoming a part of is so awesome.  I think I'll have a lot of fun here in Alabama.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Graduated Tech School!

I'm officially a 3D034!

I've completed my initial training and am set to move to my permanent duty station at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. I'm so excited to finally be a contributing member of the Air Force.

For you potential programmers who are curious: Tech school training is very basic.  If you're worried because you don't know ANY programming at all, be calm.  Hardly anybody who arrived at tech school knew anything about their future job, whether it was programming or anything else.  The point of tech school is to teach you the absolute basics.  Once you leave and get to your first duty station you will continue to learn your job and get into the more advanced stuff.

To those of you wondering what tech school is like: It's FUN!  You're going to be surrounded by people your age and you will be overwhelmed with extracurricular activities.  In fact, a lot of people have too much fun at tech school and end up screwing themselves over.  You're going to be coming straight from BMT, where everything was very rigidly scheduled, into an environment where they leave most things up to you.  They tell you where you need to be and it's your job to get there.  You still have PT in the morning, but there isn't an MTI running around banging on lockers to wake you up.  Many people make the mistake of staying up entirely too late, just because there's nobody there forcing them into bed.  Even more seriously, lots of airmen get in serious trouble for things like underage drinking and DUIs.  Some people got caught with drugs while I was in Keesler.  Tech school can be a lot of fun, but don't go overboard.

However, while you're having fun, you're going to make some great friends.  I liked most of the people I met at tech school, and have made a couple really good friends that I will keep in contact with for years to come.  I'm very thankful that I had a chance to meet the people I did, and tech school is an experience I won't soon forget.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Out of BMT

I made it through Basic Military Training!  I must say, it wasn't quite what I expected, but I'm glad I was mentally preparing.

For those of you headed towards BMT: Don't worry yourself sick like I did.  I did a LOT of mental preparation, and I kind of psyched myself out.  I was expecting it to be the worst experience of my life, and I was so sure that I was going to be miserable.  In reality...

BMT was actually kind of fun.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to do it again.  It was rough, but it was not nearly as bad as I had pictured.  The real point of BMT is to stress you out, and they will find ways to stress you out no matter how you prepare.  It doesn't matter how physically and mentally fit you are, they will annoy you to the point where minor annoyances no longer matter.  That said, they can't really hurt you, and your safety is always in mind.  They're not going to run you until your legs fall off, and when people are truly injured they are taken care of properly.  This does usually mean that you get set back in training while waiting to heal, so most trainees push through whatever pain they're experiencing.  More often than not, if a trainee gets seriously injured it's because they were afraid to speak up because of being afraid of getting set back.

Now that I've gone through it, here is my advice for anybody going in:

  1. BMT is a game.  A game called You're Wrong.  Like I said, it doesn't matter how much you prepare, they will still find ways to mess with you.  MTIs are on the internet, too.  They know you've heard about their tricks, and they're constantly coming up with new tricks.  Don't expect to outmaneuver your MTI.  Let him win, and learn to follow orders, even if they make no sense whatsoever.  That's the point of BMT.  On that note, take all advice (this included) with a grain of salt.  BMT is constantly changing, and tricks that might have worked last week probably won't work today.
  2. Start BMT habits before you go.  For example, I started shaving daily before I went to BMT.  You could learn how to do hospital corners and start making your bed everyday.  By the same token, try and stop any bad habits you won't be able to do in BMT.  You won't have tobacco, caffeine, or any sort of candy.  You won't be able to snack between meals.  Missing things like this is only going to stress you out more when you get there, so try to quit it now.
  3. Go fast.  EVERYTHING in BMT has to be done quickly.  People forgot stuff all the time because we were always rushed.  However, it was always better to be the guy who got there first and had time to run back and get something than the guy who got there absolutely last and gets yelled at by the MTI.  If you're the type that likes to drag your feet, get over it quick, because it'll only make you a target.
  4. Get in shape.  You're going to be stressed.  Having to worry about physical fitness is only going to stress you more.  If you're not in shape, start working on it now.  Your goal should be that you're able to pass the final PT test before you ever get to BMT.  If you're not in shape on arrival, work out in the spare time you have in BMT.  Do some push ups and sit ups beside your bed before you go to sleep.  That small effort every day will really help you improve.  The PT test isn't hard if you put the effort in, so work on it sooner, not later.
  5. Despite other people's advice, go ahead and volunteer for stuff.  Everybody I talked to told me not to volunteer for anything when I got to BMT.  Apparently this is a common piece of advice, and it pissed off every MTI I met in Lackland.  There were times that my entire flight got punished because nobody would volunteer for anything.  You're going to have to do crap you don't want to do regardless, so go ahead and take whatever crappy duty they offer first.  They might even appreciate that you're not afraid to volunteer for stuff.
  6. Stay calm and do what you're told.  You're going to get yelled at.  They're going to rush you.  They're going to give you conflicting instructions.  You're going to get frustrated.  Whatever you do, don't get angry at the MTIs.  As I've said before, BMT is a game, and the MTIs win by pissing you off.  However, they don't really want to yell the same instructions at you everyday for 8 weeks, so the sooner you learn to do what they say without question or attitude, the sooner they will ease up.  Eventually, your flight will begin to run itself and you'll all do what you need to do without the MTI needing to tell you, so the MTI will fade away and leave you alone.
  7. Enjoy it.  You only go through BMT once (hopefully), so enjoy the ride.  Yes, most of it is going to suck.  Yes, you're going to miss your old life.  However, there are fun parts.  Almost everybody enjoys things like the obstacle course and going to the shooting range.  I actually enjoyed most of BEAST.  Many of the classroom instructors were really funny and laid back.  Plus, the MTIs say some hilarious stuff when they're yelling at you.  Especially after you've been there a while and know the routine, you'll get a lot of entertainment out of seeing other trainees (mostly newer ones) getting yelled at.  Hell, there's a Facebook page dedicated to funny stuff that happens at BMT.  It's really not all that bad.
Just remember: Embrace the suck.  It's only terrible for a little while, and those 8 weeks absolutely fly by.  Before you know it you'll be in tech school having a blast, so keep your head down and push through.  It's all worth it in the long run.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's Almost Time...

In two days I will be in San Antonio, Texas for Basic Military Training.  Tomorrow my wife will drive me to the recruiter's office where I, and anybody else going to MEPS, will get on a van and ride up to Knoxville.  Just like my first MEPS visit, I'll stay in the hotel Monday night and then get a very early ride to MEPS on Tuesday morning.  There I will sit around until I'm sworn in and then taken to the airport where I will fly to Texas.

So this is it.  All my preparation will now come into play and we'll see if I'm ready for the Air Force.  I will spend 8.5 weeks in Texas, graduating from BMT in late July if all goes well.  From there I will go straight to Keesler AFB in Mississippi where I'll spend 14 weeks learning my job.  I'll probably begin posting again once I'm at Keesler, since I'll have much more freedom than in BMT and will be anxious to tell everybody how it went.

So, wish me luck, and I'll see you all on the other side!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

At this point, I'm just waiting around until I'm shipped out to Basic.  Yes, I have to call the recruiter once a week and see him in person once a month, but for the most part I don't HAVE to do anything between now and May 24th when I go to Texas.  But in reality, anything I can do now to prepare for Basic means a little less I'll have to struggle with once I get there.

As far as mental preparation goes, I think I'm set.  I've memorized the enlisted and officer ranks, the Air Force song, the Airman's Creed, the core values, and a bunch of acronyms I was told I needed to know.  I know how to report to the TIs (Training Instructors) when they ask me questions, and I've practiced standing at attention at Commander's Call.  Unless I can talk my wife into screaming at me everyday so that I can be used to being yelled at, I'm not sure what else I can do to mentally prepare for Basic.

Physically, though, there's work to be done.

To graduate Basic I need to run 1.5 miles in about 12 minutes, do 45 push-ups in a minute and 50 sit-ups in a minute.  I've been working on doing more push-ups since before I first talked to the recruiter, so that's no problem.  Running is not my forte, but I've been going to the YMCA and working on my cardio.  My speed is increasing and running isn't as hard, but I've still got a while to go before I can hit the 12 minute mark.  Sit-ups are by far my Achilles heel.  While I can already do 40 push-ups easily, I can barely do 20 sit-ups before I fall over in pain.  This is despite working on my abs during my workouts at the Y.

Since I've got less than 2 months to go, this is unacceptable.  To be honest, I'd focused so much on push-ups and running that I'd all but forgotten to really work my abs.  So now, since it's what I'm most behind on, it'll be the focus of my preparation.  Starting tomorrow I'll be doing the 100 push-up program... but I'll replace the push-ups with sit-ups.  Actually, I'll be doing both push-ups AND sit-ups.  I'd love to be above graduation standards before I even get to Basic, so if I can do 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups, I won't have to worry about the physical torment that Basic will bring.

Now let's just hope this 100 push-up program actually works...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Contract #2 Signed

WOOHOO!

I now know 1) when I'm going to Basic and 2) what I'll be doing once I'm officially an airman!  As I said in previous posts, I signed my contract that officially puts me in the Delayed Entry Program, but initially that contract did not contain a specific job or date to ship to Basic Training.  As of yesterday, I have signed a second contract which contains both those things!

May 24th I will return to the Knoxville MEPS where I will fly to San Antonio, Texas and ride a bus to Lackland Air Force Base.  I will spend 8 and a half weeks there for Basic Military Training - I know, Texas during June and July.  Not fun.  After that I will go to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS for training in Computer Systems Programming.  That's right, I got the nerd job!  I'll be there for 14 weeks learning how to do all the egghead stuff that the Air Force will need me to do.

This is absolutely great news.  Now that I've got a guaranteed job, on paper, with my name signed on it, I don't have to worry about getting stuck as the Official Hole Digger or something like that.  I've been doing some reading online about my job, including posts from current Air Force programmers, and it sounds like exactly the kind of job I want.  If you want to read specifics on just what sort of things I'll be doing, the easiest thing is to do a search for my job's AFSC: 3D0X4.

That code is the Air Force Specialty Code, which is the shorthand code the Air Force uses to identify jobs.  I'll technical be a 3D034 when I join.  The 3 indicates that I'll be an "apprentice".  As I gain rank and get further training, I'll increase to a "5 level" and then "7 level".  For now, though, I'm just glad I'll be a 3D034 and that I'll have this opportunity to really learn some cool stuff with the Air Force!