Career Transitions

Lt. Col. Randall Heusser official photo

Lt. Col. Randall Heusser official photo

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Over the past year, and a half I have had the privilege of leading Air Mobility Command’s largest and most diverse operations support squadron. 

This unit is truly one of a kind, providing premier operations support via 14 different Air Force specialties.  During this time, I had the opportunity to mentor a number of young Airmen facing unexpected career transitions due to a variety of reasons. 

I began my U.S. Air Force career in 1993, the year I joined the Arizona Civil Air Patrol.  At this time, my childhood dream was to become an astronaut and as a young teen, I had determined that the most direct path was to become a pilot in the military.  Civil Air Patrol taught me Air Force core values: the value of hard work, setting goals and, most importantly, achieving mission success through teamwork.  This experience greatly influenced my future as it steered me to an appointment to the Air Force Academy. 

At the Air Force Academy, I quickly realized that becoming an astronaut would be out of the question as I opted to pursue my passion for military history and political science by majoring in military strategic studies.  I did, however, remain focused on obtaining a commission and becoming a pilot. 

Shortly after graduation, I headed to Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, with many of my classmates, to begin undergraduate pilot training.  At Columbus, I faced my single greatest professional detour during my first official week of training. I was notified that my medical records were flagged.  Ultimately, it was determined that I was in fact not pilot qualified despite not having any previously documented medical conditions and passing all of my physicals. 

Despite my best efforts and appeals, it was determined that I had a “nonwaivable” condition that prevented me from becoming a pilot.  I was then offered re-assignment to become an air battle manager and promptly redirected to Tyndall AFB, Florida.  After several months at Tyndall, awaiting ABM training and working in the 95th Fighter Squadron, I was informed that my medical condition also prevented me from becoming an airborne controller. 

My Air Force career seemed to be off to a rather turbulent start and certainly not one I anticipated. I was once again offered retraining and sought security forces as our country’s post 9/11 response was in full affect in Afghanistan and just beginning in Iraq.  At that time, it seemed to me there would be a great need for more defenders overseas and I was eager to try to do my part and serve my country.  While this unanticipated change in careers was a significant and most unexpected transition for me, I learned to embrace my father’s wisdom that success in life is a lot less about what happens to you and more about how you get through it. 

After embracing my new career path and fully immersing myself in the opportunity before me—I focused on developing as a leader in my role as a young security forces officer, leading a flight of highly professional defenders and U.S. Army National Guard Soldiers at Holloman AFB, New Mexico.  This experience and detour, more than any others, developed me most as a professional Air Force officer. 

Several years later, as fate would have it, it was determined that I was medically qualified to become an Air Force pilot.  As a result of my unexpected career transition, I gained a new perspective on life and my career. 

While I never became an astronaut, I am grateful for the many professional opportunities, often unanticipated, that I have experienced since I began my service and Air Force career nearly 25 years ago.  Most importantly, I was fortunate to learn early in my career that we cannot always control our futures, but we certainly can make the most of the unanticipated opportunities that lie ahead.