In a Nutshell: What I Do In the Air Force

This weekend it was time yet again to transition from student to airman!  On Thursday I took my last final of my undergraduate career EVER, which was super weird, then I packed up and headed towards eastern PA for an Air Force National Guard weekend.

Before I go any further, I’d like to explain what exactly it is I do.  A lot of people don’t understand what the Guard is, and that’s completely understandable.  Before I joined, I had no idea what it meant either.  So here’s an explanation:

This summer I went to basic training and some follow-on training afterwards.  I was considered to be “active duty” (i.e. full time job) for those 90 days. 

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This is actually a picture of me in my last week of basic training!  It was right after church, the only time of the week you’re allowed the smallest bit of freedom and to be yourself.  The girl on the left is also in my unit and plays clarinet.  She was a few weeks ahead of me at basic, but we would see each other every week during the church service.  This was her graduation day when she was with her family – it made me realize the end was near!  Now, the two of us are inseparable during drill and I consider her one of my closest friends.  I hope you all appreciate my awesome coke bottle glasses – they were issued to us, which means that everyone with a prescription had to wear them!

Once I got back to PA I transitioned into what I am now part of, the National Guard.  Those in the National Guard meet for two days once a month on a weekend – some know us as “weekend warriors” – and also a few weeks during the summer. So, that’s what I do. 

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This is Ali and I at my house getting ready to leave for our first drill weekend back in September!  We were so tired!

My official job in the National Guard is band member, so on those weekends my unit, which is the band, meets to rehearse and do other military-related activities that are boring and not worth talking about.  It’s interesting because even though my job is technically to be a musician, it’s often the thing that gets the least amount of time and attention.  But it is what it is and we still do get to do the music thing, among all the paperwork and boring stuff.

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This picture is from our performance yesterday! 

Most drill weekends are pretty exhausting, mainly for three reasons.

1. They involve a lot of driving.  I’m usually coming from school which is over 3 hours away and I usually pick up Ali on my way which adds a bit of time.  Not to mention we have to drive to and from the base each day which is another hour and a half, plus the time going back to school.

2. They involve a lot of talking.  That sounds stupid, but not naturally being a full-on extrovert and still fairly new at this job, it really tires me out.  Ali and I talk the entire car ride to my house because we have a month’s worth of conversation to much to catch up on!  Then we chat up with people in our unit, and we talk to people about administrative things, and about training and forms and performances and music and we talk the whole car ride back.  It’s great and I enjoy all the communication that goes on, but I am just drained by Sunday evening.

3. They involve doing new things because I haven’t been in the unit long  Some of it’s not difficult, like figuring out where the timpani goes after we unload it off the truck, or where the dining facility is, or who the best person is to talk to about accomplishing a certain task.  There’s just so much unknown, but bit by bit I am learning how to do everything.

Despite those things, drill weekends are really fun because the people in my unit are like a big family and I get paid to be a musician.  What could be better than that?  Not to mention I just really like the military lifestyle in general; it’s kind of hard to explain unless you’ve been in it yourself.

This drill weekend was especially exhausting because it was three days long instead of two.  We had a holiday performance on Saturday afternoon, so we used the extra day to prepare.  This was my third official drill weekend with the band, so I’m still learning people’s names and how everything works.  But I felt like I really got to know people during this drill weekend, mainly because we got to spend so much time together.  There was a great Christmas party and I got to talk with a lot of people that I hadn’t before.

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The dynamic duo at the party.  I would not enjoy this experience half as much if I didn’t have Ali there with me!

There is so much more I could say about my experience with the Air Force, but I’ll stop now before I write a small novel.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say about the Air Guard in the future.  Aim high, fly, fight, win!

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