From stripes to bars: Travis Airmen set sights on Officer Training School

Staff Sgt. Katherine Little and Tech Sgt. Maurice Morrell, both part of the 60th Air Mobility Wing Comptroller Squadron, proudly display their future second lieutenant ranks at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. Little and Morrell were each selected for Officer Training School and will commission at the end of their OTS classes in January and March, respectively. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Sarah Johnson)

Staff Sgt. Katherine Little and Tech Sgt. Maurice Morrell, both part of the 60th Air Mobility Wing Comptroller Squadron, proudly display their future second lieutenant ranks at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. Little and Morrell were each selected for Officer Training School and will commission at the end of their OTS classes in January and March, respectively. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Sarah Johnson)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. Two Airmen from Travis Air Force Base, California are working hard to prepare for their Officer Training School classes this spring, where they will each earn their commission as second lieutenants in the United States Air Force upon completion.

Both Staff Sgt. Katherine Little and Tech Sgt. Maurice Morrell from 60th Air Mobility Wing Comptroller Squadron were selected to become acquisitions officers through the OTS program. Little will attend OTS in January 2017 and report to Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, and Morrell will attend in March 2017 and report to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

Though their journeys are very different, both Airmen share an overwhelming sense of pride over the opportunity to become officers.

It gets me emotional just thinking about it, said Little. "I have so much pride in the Air Force. This selection shows that Air Force leaders know I am competent and able to lead the next generation of Airmen.

Morrell was equally emotional about the selection.

I had to hold back, kind of grit my teeth a little bit, said Morrell when reflecting on the day he found out he was selected. It was intense and very emotional. It felt like a reward for all of the hard work. All the late nights, all the weekends, all the professional challenges Ive faced thus far it really hit home and gave me a sense of achievement.

The sense of pride did not come without years of hard work and perseverance.

For Little, OTS acceptance is completing a journey she started nine years prior as an airman 1st class, when a captain she met while deployed encouraged her to think for the first time about becoming an officer.

I really dont know what he saw in me leadership-wise, she said. But he saw potential that I didnt quite foresee yet. I am so thankful to all the mentors who have helped me in the process there are dozens."

With that dream in mind, Little went on to serve in 11 different squadrons across five bases. She completed Community College of the Air Force, as well as earned a bachelors degree in business management and a masters degree in project management.

However, both personal and professional challenges made the journey difficult. Three OTS application packages that were not selected and her mothers cancer diagnosis made her dig deep and continue pursuing her goal, even when it seemed like a lost cause.

It seemed like I ran into roadblocks every time I tried to do some type of commissioning program, she said. (I) had to trust God the entire time and say, 'If this is what you want from me, then its going to happen somehow.'

Finally, in December 2015, she received the news she had been waiting to hear that she was selected for her No. 1 job choice as an acquisitions officer. Now, looking back, she is grateful for the way her story unfolded.

Having the opportunity to serve in several different squadrons, I acquired the experience and knowledge from a vast amount of career fields in the Air Force and learned how Airmen work in each capacity, she said. That will definitely be beneficial as an officer.

For Morrell, the chance to go to OTS provides the opportunity to impact people even more, just as military members over the course of his career have impacted him.

Morrell started his career at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, and was challenged early to pursue OTS. However, it took the encouragement of senior enlisted and officers alike to bring the dream to fruition.

Even though I had thought about it, it always felt distant and not necessarily attainable, he said. (But I) went to financial management staff at United States Air Forces in Europe and thats really where things changed for me. My scope of responsibility expanded considerably and I was able to meet the challenge. It really gave me the confidence to pursue even greater responsibility.

Under the mentorship of senior staff members at USAFE and others, Morrell completed CCAF as well as a bachelors degree in business right after he arrived at Travis. Not long afterward, he put in his package for OTS and found out he was selected in June 2016.

The Air Force is something my wife and I both take very seriously, he said. Weve dedicated our lives to service and we both work hard and really care about what we do. Getting picked up for OTS was really a special moment for both of us.

Though he is well on his way to becoming an officer, he does not forget his mentors and strives to dedicate himself to mentoring others and giving back.

(OTS acceptance) is incredibly meaningful because you know the impact you can have on people, he said. Sure, theres financial incentive; sure theres a kind of the prestige that comes with it; but its really the impact on people you can have that Im really looking forward to. Many leaders have invested in me and my career, and I feel a responsibility to do the same and help others achieve their goals.

If theres one tool Little and Morrell are using to prepare for OTS, it is pride: pride in themselves, pride in others and pride in their future careers. 

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