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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.