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Choose Your Own Adventure

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Coming back from France, I felt tears well up on my sweat-soaked face (I’d been traveling all day, okay?) when I saw the flag for the first time. It was such a relief to be back home: back in a place where everyone speaks the same language as you and there is such a thing as 24/7 service.

I took full advantage of my temporary respite by catching up on episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, spending time with my family, and hanging out at our camp up on the lake. I did a fair bit of worrying for Field Training, too, which kept haunting me in my dreams.

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Fast forward two weeks now….and ta da, I’m done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (That deserves about a hundred more exclamations) I’ve made it through the gauntlet and feel as if I’ve come out a different person. At first, I didn’t think that 14 days was a long enough time to fully evaluate someone and train them appropriately. However, those were the longest 14 days of my life. The entire time, you are in what is called a “locked on” environment, where you can’t speak unless spoken to, you march everywhere, and you can’t move a muscle in formation unless you want to have the full wrath of a CTA (Cadet Training Assistant) come down on you. From the get-go, TD-0, it was like clothes being put on tumble in a dryer. The first two days are shock and awe moments where it seems like no amount of training could prepare you for how strenuous they would be. Most people complain about eight hour work days, but our work days were approximately fifteen hours. From the moment you woke up at 4:00am, you would be in a constant rush of completing tasks until you would be allowed to go to bed at 8:00pm each night. Even our food breaks at the dining facility were tightly monitored! We would have to sit at attention and could not look around or talk. Everything about our lives was tightly controlled, and we were puppets that were yanked along throughout the day.

I was thrown in there with sixteen other people in the same group as me. We were called Romeo Flight and were a part of Squadron 6. Field Training is an interesting lab experiment, because some groups work much better than others and it’s all a luck of the draw. With these sixteen complete strangers, I ended up making sixteen new friends. We ate together, slept together, sweat together, and became so close that we knew everything and yet nothing about each other. I didn’t know most of their first names, where they were from, what they liked to eat, or anything personal. What I did get to learn however, was who was a fast learner, who had hidden confidence under a quiet shell, who would go on to mentor the flight, who would help everyone at every opportunity, and who would back down in the face of adversity. I was able to see what kind of person my flightmates were, without being distracted by the fluff of everything else about them. Like a rock worn down by the ocean, I was able to see each person for who they truly were. We knew so much and yet so little about each other.

The first half of our training took place at Maxwell Air Force Base, where we went to instructional classes during the day and covered topics like integrated base defense, compass navigation, radio techniques, map reading, operations in urban terrain, IED/UXO removal, and much more. Then, the second half of our training was a flood of scenarios that tested how well we understood the concepts from days prior. The scenarios ranged in difficulty and scope, some being comprised of eight people, where others were up to forty-eight people. They even put me in charge of one scenario where I was responsible for all forty-eight people in my squadron. Although I didn’t finish the mission in the allotted time, if I had had two more minutes I could have completed it. I spent almost the entire mission shouting into the radio to “MOVE UP, MOVE UP.”

At the end of every night, we would sing the Air Force Song as a Squadron and go to bed as the last note of “Taps” played. It was a somber and reflective moment that made us all think back on the day. As our Squadron Training Officer used to tell us every night, we should reflect on how we had sharpened our skills for the day and how we can continue to give 110% of our effort. She firmly believed that it is people who are the weapons. The planes, tanks, bombs: those are all just tools. She would say, “These are the tools, we are the weapons.” Thinking back, I would agree with her. Without dedicated, motivated, trained professionals, the military of the United States would be nowhere near as fearsome as what it currently is.

There were several moments during Field Training where I had to step back out of my body and take a look at things from afar. I couldn’t believe I was twenty feet up on a rope net or half-buried crawling under a log, but somehow, I was pushing my body through the pain of it all and making it happen. The entire process made me reflect on how much I want to be an officer: how much I want a chance to serve my country. If you weren’t giving your full effort there, it was quite noticeable. I call this article “Choose Your Own Adventure”, because I believe that you are the master of your own fate. Many people go through life deciding to take the easy route out. Whenever faced with a tough decision, they decide to go the path of least resistance. If you think this might be you, then let me tell you that you are living life wrong. The only way to get better, to have growth, is to put yourself into new scenarios that make you uncomfortable. As one of my heroes, David Goggins, likes to say, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” If you are comfortable, it means you are complacent. Many people never realize their true potential because they give excuses like, “oh, I could never do that” or “it’s too hard.” The adventure I’ve decided to take has gotten progressively harder with every turn I take, but I like it that way. With each new challenge I face, I feel like I get better at handling large workloads, managing my time, and maintaining a positive outlook on situations. I could have given up and thrown in the towel long ago, but I am determined to see it through until I reach my end goal. I have faced numerous setbacks along my journey, but I’ve learned from them and moved on. Barring the sky falling down, there is nothing that can get in the way of me reaching my dream of becoming an astronaut.

Life is too short to live in complacency. If you live making easy decisions, then you will never do anything impactful. Time is the most valuable resource we have, so I urge everyone I can: take a look at your own adventure and look at the options ahead of you. Do not be afraid to take the hardest path, because it can bear the sweetest fruits if you see it through to the end.

“Copy All”
- In honor of Major Laubenthal

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Posted by oklempay 19:25 Archived in USA Tagged usa mission cta romeo maxwell scenario field_training goggins laubenthal Comments (0)

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