Today, is my 10th anniversary since being in the military. It honestly doesn’t seem like it was 10 years ago when I went to Lackland AFB during the summer. I still remember doing PT first thing in the morning, when the sun wasn’t even out; and also attempting to perform my dormitory duties as house mouse, only to be kicked out of my Training Instructor’s office to help out with other stuff. [SIDE NOTE: My TI is actually stationed at the next base over from where I work. Small Air Force!]. Everything I’ve done in these 10 years seem to have been so recent, but I’m reminded that its been years since they’ve occurred, considering the many changes I’ve seen in the Air Force… Oh yeah, and my Airmen like to remind me just how “old” I really am -_-…
To commemorate this significant achievement in my life, I’m going to share with you some things that I wish I could go back and counsel young A1C Cabico on… but even given the chance, I’m not so sure I’d change anything because what I’ve experienced has helped shaped the person I am today. So, if you’re in the Air Force or military OR maybe you’re a young Airman who just joined the ranks, take the time to read this post. It may be helpful in the long run.
#1 – Education first!
One of my current Airmen recently got accepted into the Air Force Academy, but that’s not the only significant accomplishment he had in the short amount of time in the clinics. He is also the youngest person I know who completed their Community College of the Air Force pre-requisites for his Associates Degree… It took me four years to finally receive my Associates Degree, and I’m still doing pre-reqs for the Interservice Physician Assistant’s Program (IPAP). If I didn’t mess around when I was an airman, who knows where I’d be today?
#2 – Take each promotion test seriously
Here I am, a 10-year enlistee SSgt who has been sitting at the current rank for about six years now. At the beginning point of my career, I flew through my promotions – I got Senior Airman Below-the-Zone (early promotion) and made SSgt on my first try. Then, two years later after putting on SSgt, I didn’t put my heart into studying for TSgt because it was my first time and it’s super rare for people to make it on their first try. I tried a little harder on the second try, tried REALLY hard on the third (still didn’t make it…I was salty), and didn’t really care on the fourth try, but could’ve had it then since I only needed eight points. It makes me really wonder where I would be if I took my chances before seriously. Would I have been selected for Master Sergeant this year? Hindsight is 20/20.
#3 – Don’t waste your time on people who aren’t serious
Young A1C Cabico wanted to be married so bad for some reason. However, that led me into my first marriage which ended very badly. Probably because it’s nice to settle down and seem adultish in my early 20s, but waiting for the right person to build a family with is worth it. Don’t sell yourself short.
#4 – Having kids can wait
Waiting is especially important in having kids! Don’t get me wrong, I love the heck out of my two boys, but life would be so much easier if it were just my husband and me regarding school. And, I know it’s very possible to be a parent and go to school, it’s just difficult juggling things around.
#5 – …but if you have kids, time is absolutely of the essence
You can easily get wrapped up into the whole military lifestyle and career without even trying. There’s a lot that’s being asked for, and its not just to perform you job. Coming from the Air Force, if you want to be promoted or have a foot in the door when you submit packages for scholorships, new job positions, etc., you have to do a lot of off-duty/on your own time work. That means getting your name out there through volunteering and education. While all of this extra duty stuff may look great on paper, don’t forget who’s on this journey with you. Being a young NCOIC of Women’s Health, I was engrossly involved with my clinic that I didn’t take the time to being my son to appointments that he needed or do other things mommy’s do. Me being so consumed in the military lifestyle is one of the contributing factors of why my first marriage failed, although there were some other major points as well…
#6 – SAVE YOUR MONEY!!
I seriously took living in the dorms for granted. Instead of frivolously spending my money on stupid things and alcohol, my savings account would be healthier than it’s current state… Drinking’s overrated anyway.
#7 – Be careful who you trust
With this important life lesson, it was a pretty unfortunate way to go. There were a LOT of warning signs for me to not trust someone that didn’t deserve it, but I chose to ignore my lack of judgement. And, truth be told, that person technically did the right thing in telling my leadership that I was detracting from military standards. The problem with this incident was that they first acknowledge the fact that I was not in a good position and they recognized it, but then used it against me. Thus, completely rewording their own version of the story so that they didn’t get in trouble. Really, if you eff up and gave some bad advice, just own up to it instead of throwing people under the bus. Don’t be an a*hole.
#8 – Take care of yourself
With every initial feedback I conduct for new troops, I always tell them that it’s important they take care of themselves. Afterall, they are the Air Force’s greatest asset, as cheesy as that may sound. However cheesy it may sound, it is very true, especially when it comes to our low-manning issue. I always give my troops an example of a broken vital signs machine. How do you rely on a piece of equipment if it gives you faulty blood pressure readings? The point is, we must ensure that we are taking care of ourselves, physically, mentally, and emotionally, so we can get the job done. If our minds aren’t in the right place, what good are we for the mission?
#9 – Stand up for yourself
I’ve never encountered this problem, as all the faults that I’ve encountered were truly faults of my own. However, with all these recent allegations of commander’s abusing their power and other leadership issues, it is imperative that you fight for yourself. When handing out punishments, I get my Airmen into the habit of writing rebuttal statements and checking with the Area Defense Counsel (legal office) to make sure what I’m doing is completely legal. This is not to say that I’m doubting myself or my competency as a supervisor to be giving out punishments, I just want my Airmen to be in tune with problems and being able to recognize what is abuse of authority and what isn’t. I’ve learned in my career that the only person that is willing to go to bat for you 100% of the time is you. If you know deep down in your gut that you’re being wrongly accused of something, speak up.
#10 – Don’t worry about what other people think
This one is from one of my very close military friends, and she’s right. Being a young airman, everyone is watching you because most want you to become the best person you can be… Of course, others are there to watch you fail. Pay no attention to what everyone else is doing or saying about you. You just do you, boo boo.
#11 – Quit being a perfectionist. Learn from your mistakes
This is something I distinctly telling one of my Airmen because she was so afraid of making mistakes and always wanted to be perfect. Her efforts on trying to be perfect made things turn out the opposite. I know myself that its hard to let go of wanting to be perfect in every way, but it ends up being detrimental. Besides, how are you to learn if you don’t make mistakes? I feel like mistakes are what build and mold us to be the person we are destined to be.