Monday, June 5, 2017

I Am A DEFENDER!

Security Forces Officer Course, Security Forces Defender, Military Police, Security Forces Technical School
Security Forces Officer Course, Security Forces Defender, Military Police, Security Forces Technical School

On May 25, 2017, I received my shield and beret as I graduated the Security Forces Officer Course and officially--and finally!--became a DEFENDER!

I say "finally" because gosh--that 4.5 month tech school sure seemed to be a long one... not now that I look back on the experience, but during Week 11 when we were running missions while camo-painted up, carrying a 35-pound ruck on our backs and slinging the M240b through miles of dense, wooded terrain and dripping with sweat, completely exhausted from sleeping maybe 3-4 hours the night before... that's when it felt like it would never end. And then all of a sudden, here I am on the other side. Man, it feels good.

I have another post coming about my Security Forces Officer Course (SFOC) week-by-week breakdown, but until then, this is just to say, "Hello! I'm alive and made it through!" And to be honest, enduring the last 4.5-months and earning the privilege to don the beret, sew the shield onto my uniform, and serve proudly as a Security Forces Defender is by far the greatest honor of my career.

When I think about the fact that three short years ago this week, I graduated Basic Military Training as an Airman First Class and since joining have spent an entire year away from home between my Personnel Tech School, Officer Training School and now SFOC, I'm so grateful for the path that my career has taken me on. I'm truly working my dream job every single day and can't wait to see what the future as a Defender and my base's Security Forces Operations Officer will hold.

Our class motto was "Upon the Shoulders of Giants" and as I move forward into my career, I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of some amazing Defenders who served before me, who gave their lives to protect our country, and who continue to exhibit our second Core Value of Service Before Self every single day. I hope to do each of them justice and not only grow as an Officer, but also empower, enable, and learn from my own troops that I'll get to work with back home.

As we said at SFOC, "74 pounds... no excuses!" and as I look back at the photo below and take my next step forward, you guys better bet that no excuses will be given. Ruck this! 

Security Forces Officer Course, Security Forces Defender, Military Police, Security Forces Technical School

BONUS! One of my classmates put together a GoPro video of many of our training experiences while at SFOC. Watch it below... it's just the tip of the iceberg but a very cool glimpse into some of our incredible training we received... You can spot me at 3:29 if you look quickly!



Stay tuned for my SFOC week-by-week breakdown post coming soon. HOOAH! 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Security Forces Officer Course

SFOC, Air Force Security Forces, Security Forces Officer Course

Two weeks ago, I began the 4.5-month journey to becoming a Security Forces Officer. As you recall, I finished Officer Training School (OTS) as a Second Lieutenant in June, and have been eagerly anticipating this technical school so I can finally receive the education and training for the job I've been trying to do for the last 6-months.

As an enlisted Airman, I was trained in personnel and human resources. In order to be selected as an Officer, I had to compete for a spot within a new career field--and Security Forces was where I applied and was subsequently chosen for the job as an Operations Officer. Security Forces is so different than anything I've ever done before, and it was exciting to think about learning an entirely different skill set and put my mind & body to the test with some new tactical and strategic training. To say that I was absolutely elated to go into SF would be an understatement.

In the time between OTS and the Security Forces Officer Course (SFOC), I worked as the Operations Officer at our Air National Guard base. While I tried to learn the job as best as I could, it was necessary for me to go to SFOC to receive the foundational training so that I can effectively perform my job at home. I've been waiting and waiting to get down to Texas to get this ball rolling and finally--it's here!

The school is 18-weeks long. We will learn everything from the basics of Security Forces including base defense and law enforcement fundamentals to leading troops in a deployed field environment. This school is a challenge for me--since my background is in health and wellness, everything I'm learning is so new. In addition, the field training, rucking, and Combat Agility Drills (CAD) we are expected to perform are quite physically demanding. And while it may all be a challenge, it's so fun so far. I'm learning things, building friendships, and experimenting with leadership techniques every single day.

Needless to say, if this blog is a bit quiet for the next several months, I hope you can understand. When I go on temporary duty assignments (TDY), I try to give my full attention to the training and fully submerge myself in all aspects of the course. Prior to saying "adios" for the next several months, check out a few photos of my first couple weeks in Texas below.

SFOC, Air Force Security Forces, Security Forces Officer School
There are some great trails around our base. I like to run or ruck them to help build my endurance every chance I get!

SFOC, Air Force Security Forces, Security Forces Officer Course, Expert Marksman
We spent week 2 on the firing range, learning the basics of the pistol, rifle, shotgun and grenade launcher. I was so excited to have achieved Expert Marksman on both the pistol and rifle. My aim needs some work, but for now I'm just having fun learning new weapons systems!

SFOC, Air Force Security Forces, Security Forces Officer Course
During week 2, I was our Class Leader, a.k.a. 1st In Command (1IC). This was during our end-of-day de-brief and prep for the next morning with our Squad Leaders.

SFOC, Air Force Security Forces, Security Forces Officer School, Eisenhower Park San Antonio, rucking
Rucking the trails by our base. Our base weight for our rucks (at this point in training, anyway) is 35 lbs prior to adding water. When we ruck as a flight, we are in full uniform and often running (read: shuffling) while we do it.

SFOC, Air Force Security Forces, Security Forces Officer School,Eisenhower Park San Antonio, Ruck marching
Rucking with the guys. The friendships I'm building here are so invaluable. Everyone seems like a family already. And if I'm going to be gone for 4.5-months, it's so great to know I'll be surrounded by a great group of people!

With four more months to go, I'm sure I'll have plenty more to share as the days tick past. Though it's only been two weeks, it feels like we've been in school for much longer than that already. While I love being in this TDY environment, I sure do miss home. But as with every training I've gone to, this brings me one step closer to my dream career of being full-time in the military and helps build my future with Daniel and my someday-family to be that much stronger.

As one of our fallen Defenders, 1st Lt Joseph D. Helton, Jr. said, "Don't be a weaksauce." And Lt Helton, to you I will do the honor of living every single day to learn, grow, fight, and never be a weaksauce. 4-more months to go... let's do this! HOOAH.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Merry Christmas timeline Christmas card, Rowe Christmas 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Love ♥ The Rowe's and all our fun adventures
(there weren't enough photo spots to include all of them—and there are MANY more in store for 2017!)

A few thoughts that go along with this annual holiday card tradition of ours...
  • Sometimes I think I create these cards just for us—to fill our holiday coffee table book—it's like my Christmas present to myself
  • When I began this tradition in 2011, I figured there would be more than just two of us for the last four years... obviously that didn't happen!

Past Christmas cards: 2011 │ 2012201320142015

Monday, December 12, 2016

Theme-Parking Trip to Orlando, Florida

Disneyworld, Magic Kingdom, Disneyworld at Christmas, Best time of year to visit Disneyworld

Daniel and I, despite our love of traveling, don't often go new places on real vacations... we usually take our days off to visit out-of-state family and often travel to the same spots over and over. So two weeks prior to our anniversary, when Daniel asked if I would be interested in a REAL (week-long!) vacation to DISNEYWORLD, how was I to say no? Everyone says that mid-December is the best time to theme-park in Orlando, so we booked our tickets on a whim! Three weeks later, after working seven 12-14 hour days in a row, we were on the plane with my brother-in-law and his wife on a little Rowe couple's get-a-way.

We arrived in Orlando on Monday evening and without even stopping to check in at our hotel, we drove our rental car straight to Shades of Green (an Armed Forces Resort) to purchase our military discount tickets for the week. We didn't miss a beat and headed straight for Magic Kingdom to catch some warm night-time weather and low ride wait times for a few hours before the park closed—and what a good decision that was! The longest line we ended up waiting in was maybe 20-minutes. We ended up hitting all the big ones—Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.—and literally would get right on them, get off, and get right back on. We snagged a traditional HUGE turkey leg and some Dole Whip along the way and just roller-coaster-ed our little hearts out. By the time we ended up at the hotel, it was 1:30 am and we were beat!

Disneyworld, Magic Kingdom, Magic Kingdom Princess Castle at night, Disneyworld at Christmas
Night 1 - Magic Kingdom.

We slept in the next morning and woke up to pouring rain. We threw on our hats and jackets and headed for Hollywood Studios. It turns out that rainy days are GREAT days at Disney. It seemed like we had the park to ourselves as we rode Tower of Terror, The Great Movie Ride, Rockin' Roller Coaster, and everything else we could find with no more than 5-minute wait times. Sah-weet! After we had our fill of the thrills, we took a boat over to Epcot to visit the different worlds and lands. We ended up catching some chips and salsa in Mexico, rode the Gran Fiesta Tour, and weaved in an out of every other country before stopping in France for a meringue and soft serve. We again closed the park down with their epic fireworks IllumiNations show. Talk about living every day to the fullest!

Disneyworld, Hollywood Studios, Tower of Terror, Disneyworld at Christmas
Day 2 - Hollywood Studios.

Disneyworld, Epcot, Epcot Mexico, Disneyworld at Christmas
Day 2 - Taking a trip to Mexico at Epcot.

Disneyworld, Epcot, Epcot at night, Disneyworld at Christmas
Evening 2 - Epcot.

On Day 3, we were up bright and early to get to Universal Studios as the park opened. We figured it would be jam-packed with the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so we started the day off with the Escape from Gringotts ride. Surprisingly, we only waited about 5-minutes for the ride, and we were shocked to find out that the lines for the rest of the day would be similar—if not shorter! We did not hold back at Universal, bouncing between both parks and taking it all in. We rode Revenge of the Mummy, Rip-Ride Rockit, Dueling Dragons, Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, Jurassic Park, The Hulk, ET Adventure, Doctor Doom's Fearfall, and Popeye's Bilge-Rat Barges (I skipped that one). Seriously—we rode ALL THE RIDES... and then some again and again! Of all the parks, I think Universal was my favorite simply because of the vast array of high-intensity rides and just how empty the park was compared to the Disney parks. We got so lucky! We ended up soaking in every minute we could there, finishing the evening by just wandering through Diagon Alley and enjoying treats from their Sugar Shoppe until the park closed.

Universal Studios Florida, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley
Day 3 - Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Diagon Alley.

Universal Studios Florida, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hogsmeade
Day 3 - On the other side of Universal Studios at Hogsmeade. Lunch at the Three Broomsticks was so fun!

Universal Studios Florida, Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls
Day 3 - Universal Studios at Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls. Yes, I'm wearing my poncho on backwards... I rode with my hood on backwards the entire ride. It was perfect—I didn't get wet and looked like a total dork!

Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios Parade, Universal Studios at Christmas, Best time of year to visit Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios sunset
Evening 3 - A magical sunset and deserted streets at Universal Studios. We couldn't have asked for a better day there!

Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios Parade, Universal Studios at Christmas, Best time of year to visit Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios sunset
A perfect end to day 3 at Universal Studios!

Day 4 brought a repeat of Magic Kingdom and Epcot. We arrived at Magic Kingdom when it opened and enjoyed some of the other rides we weren't able to hit on the first night. We went on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, "it's a small world," the tea cups at the Mad Tea Party, the Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, Haunted Mansion, and then of course Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain again. The cinnamon almonds in Frontier Land were a treat that held me over until we got to Epcot where I enjoyed some Norwegian Lefse—it didn't taste quite as good as my Grandma's, but it was truly a treat nevertheless! We again walked through each country and enjoyed the sunny weather and traditional food offerings. For once, we left before the park closed and ended up making it in time for happy hour at Landry's, which was a success in itself. Yum, that seafood was good!

Disneyworld, Magic Kingdom, Magic Kingdom Princess Castle, Disneyworld at Christmas, Best time to visit Disneyworld, Best time to visit Magic Kingdom
Day 4 - Back at Magic Kingdom for more rides!

Disneyworld, Epcot, Epcot Ball
Day 4 - Epcot. The Norwegian Lefse was my favorite treat!

We were up early on Day 5, heading to the Animal Kingdom for a new adventure. It was chilly that morning, so the park was relatively calm. We rode Everest and took the Kilimanjaro Safari, and then watched the Lion King show and walked through every exhibit we could find. The detail that went into Animal Kingdom was just amazing—it truly feels like you're in a different world! By about 2:00 pm, we were experiencing some serious hunger pains, so we decided to end our park-hopping for the day and enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch at El Patron. Holy cow, their Mexican food took the cake for our favorite meal... plus we were starving, so literally... it was so, so good and we filled up! We followed our feast with a well-deserved ciesta. Later on, we drove and shopped around International Drive, ending the evening at RA Sushi with some yummy rolls!

Disneyworld, Animal Kingdom, Best time of year to visit Animal Kingdom
Day 5 - Animal Kingdom.

Disneyworld, Animal Kingdom, Animal Kingdom Everest Ride
Day 5 - Top of the Everest roller coaster at Animal Kingdom. That ride was bomb!

Day 6, our last full day, was spent at Sea World. We are so grateful that Sea World offers free admission to military members, so we enjoyed most of the day with the marine life and some of my favorite rides yet. Sea World is just so different from any of the other parks we experienced. First, my FAVORITE favorite ride of the whole trip was Manta. That ride blew my mind and was just an absolute thrill. My second favorite ride was Maco, which claims to be Orlando's tallest, fastest and longest coaster. It was pretty darn fun. We also watched the Clyde and Seamore Sea Lion High show, walked through all the aquariums and exhibits, and visited every bit of the park. While we had only intended on staying for the morning, we ended up spending a good majority of the day there, spending the longest time with the seals. Around dinner time, we departed the park and headed straight to BJ's for some deep dish pizza, wings, chicken, and laughs. It was the perfect way to cap off an excellent vacation.

Sea World, Sea World aquarium, Sea World shark encounter, Best time of year to visit Sea World
Day 6 - Inside the Shark Encounter at Sea World.

Sea World, Sea World petting sharks, Sea World shark encounter, Sea World Shark Touch Pool, Best time of year to visit Sea World
Day 6 - Petting brown-banded bamboo sharks at Sea World.

Sea World, Sea World seals, Sea World Seal Feeding
Day 6 - The Sea World seals were so full of personality.

Sea World, Sea World at Christmas, Best time of year to visit Sea World
Day 6 - Sea World at Christmas... thank you to Sea World for offering free admission to military members!

Sunday, as we boarded the plane to go home, you could say we were ready to get back to the daily grind, but gosh—we didn't want to leave the sunshine! To go theme-parking from sun-up to sun-down each day was pretty exhausting, but it was so worth it. All-in-all, we had six full days of theme-parking, laughs, delicious food, and memories that will last a lifetime. For an on-a-whim trip, we were so surprised that we were able to do it without breaking the bank! I mean, Daniel asked me about the trip maybe three weeks before we boarded the plane. What was intended as a surprise anniversary trip turned into a getaway that I couldn't have planned better if I had started hashing it out months in advance. Plus, we got to spend the entire week with my brother-in-law and his wife, so it was a trip that we all enjoyed together! Trust me... the memories are good ones already.

And like everyone said, mid-December truly was the best time to go theme-parking in Orlando. With the sunny and mild weather (60's-70's), low wait times for almost every ride, and lack of overwhelming crowds, we felt like we had the parks to ourselves and a vacation that truly was—for once—a VACATION!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Our Fourth Anniversary

Daniel and Annelise Rowe Fourth Anniversary

This past year has brought with it so many trials, challenges, hurdles and gray hairs—but the biggest constant in my life this last year (besides God, of course) has been that loving, sweet husband of mine. The smile on my face in the photo above is the smile that I reserve for him only. It's a real smile—one that exudes adoration, devotion, and a love that grows for him as each day passes.

When people say, "I'm so lucky," it can sometimes come off as cliché. When I think it—every single day—I know it to be 100% true. I can't put into words everything that my husband does for me, but the list keeps growing and growing and sometimes I just have to step back and take a look at just how good we have it... because we do—we have it so, so good.

As we celebrate our fourth anniversary today and a total of five-and-a-half years together, I am taking a moment to reflect on the photo above, one of my very favorites ever taken of us (from January 2016), and just rejoice in the happiness that Daniel brings me and the love that we share in our marriage. I don't always show my feelings—gotta keep that military bearing, right?—but you can't help but notice how truly happy I am in that photo. That is REAL happiness. And I find it in my husband.

Daniel, happy fourth anniversary. You're my best friend and you know me better than anyone. You put up with all my garbage, and you do it with so much grace. God blessed me with the perfect gift when He gave me you. I love you. Pound it... (pound, pound, pound!).

Past Anniversary Posts: Year OneYear TwoYear Three

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