Monday, July 28, 2014

Being Home: a Candid Look at Reintegration After BMT

Reintegration to Civilian Life After Air Force Basic Military Training, Idaho Air National Guard, 124 Fighter Wing

I've been home from Basic Military Training now for a month and a half. I can't believe how fast time is going. It's crazy that it's already the middle of summer and I'll be heading off to my second round of training at tech school in just a little over two months. Part of me is excited for that next adventure. Part of me is nervous. And this post will explain why. I'm about to give you a candid look into my thoughts about re-joining the real world after my time spent at BMT. Everyone handles the successes and stresses of BMT differently... this is a look into how I'm handling life at the moment.

Coming home—reintegration as the military calls it—has actually been a lot harder than I ever thought possible. Chalk it up to the BMT version of "Stockholm Syndrome" (where the hostage begins to identify and/or bond with their captor... in BMT it's like our bond with our MTI's, ha!)—but some days I just want to go back. Man, life there was so... simple. There was always a routine. There was always a certain way to do things. There was always something to do, somewhere to go, some rule to follow. Structure. And sure, there was drama... but it was drama that I sat back and had no part of, and I knew that I would be away from it within a matter of weeks.

After coming home, it's been mentally challenging for me to get back to life-as-I-know-it. To become a civilian again. My civilian job—working in the fundraising office of our local non-profit hospital—is great. I'm adjusting back there just fine, and if not better and more on-task than before. It's at home where I'm realizing my struggles. No longer are there 46 other trainees who I live/sleep/shower with—now it's only my poor husband who is feeling the brunt of my post-BMT stress management. Stress management... I think that's the key word there. I haven't found a good outlet for my stress (and in fact, I don't even know why I'm feeling any at all... life is truly easy these days). I've been working out 7-days a week, trying to channel my anxiety into beads of sweat that I can wipe off my forehead without a care—but it just hasn't been that easy.

In fact, I'm actually embarrassed to admit it, but I've just been so sad lately. Maybe it's a slight version of the "post BMT blues"—I was so excited for it to come, and now that it's gone, I feel an empty void there. I think I just picked up a bit of emotional baggage while at BMT and I'm having a hard time letting it go. It's turning me into a "little ball of stress," and I want nothing more than to be that carefree, low-maintenance person again. I know I can get back to that... it's just going to take some time.

I've finally arrived at the point where I want to hang out with people again, where I have started doing my nails and having fun with my makeup, and where I'm beginning to feel like a civilian... finally. While at BMT and even shortly after returning home, I didn't think I had changed at all. Now that a bit of time has elapsed and I can look back over the last several weeks, I can see just how much I changed, and how much more changing I'd like to do.

BMT was an amazing experience. I gained so much and learned so much about myself. I have big, big dreams ahead in my Air National Guard career and can't wait to move forward. I am looking forward to finishing this soul-searching and re-integration, though. Sometimes I wonder how different my mental process had been if I'd have gone straight through to tech school instead of coming home for a 4-month break. I just sort of feel like I'm in a state of limbo, and my mental thought process seems to be reflecting that. I'm promising myself now that I won't let myself experience a second round of this after returning from tech school (hence why I've felt nervous about leaving for it). In fact, I've found so much of a comfort from writing out my struggles in the past, so I'm hoping this journaling of my thoughts will help me move past what's been holding me down—me, myself and I.

In so many letters home, I swore up and down that I would never take my husband, my home or my civilian life for granted again. It's amazing to see how easy it is to forget those promises when you get back in the swing of things. This is my vow to move forward. Right now. To get back up on my feet, brush off the past, and move forward—as a civilian and Airman—ready to conquer whatever challenges lie ahead. After all, wasn't it Dorothy who said, "There's no place like home?" She's right. There's no place like home. It's time to get myself back to it.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Redfish Lake

Redfish Lake, Redfish Lake Lodge in Stanley, Idaho

A few weeks ago, Daniel and I headed up to the Sawtooth Mountains with his family to enjoy a couple days at the lake—and what a relaxing paradise it was! We vacationed at Redfish Lake Lodge in Stanley, Idaho and it was the perfectly rustic, secluded, dream-worthy place we had heard all about. The 18-room lodge sits on Redfish Lake, and is completely surrounded by the rocky, jagged peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains. We were there in late June during the work week, so it was right before the big 4th of July holiday, and hardly anyone was there—it felt like we had the place all to ourselves.

We were up at the crack of dawn (well, I was anyways) each morning hiking, running, and exploring the hills. One morning, Daniel and I beat the sun and trekked 10-miles over a beautiful hiking trail that ended at a beaver dam. That trail began just off Redfish Lake Lodge, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's looking for an easy-going, forest hike. While we were there, we also boated, fished, lounged on the beach, and ate our fair share of ice cream—consisting of at least one soft serve cone (if not two) per day.

For meals, we enjoyed breakfast at the lodge's restaurant, dined at the lodge's outdoor gazebo for most lunches, and drove into Stanley each night for dinner. We ate burgers at the Bridge Street Grill, pizza at Papa Brunee's, and a very nice steak dinner at the Stanley Kasino Club. If you visit the Kasino Club, you must try their mud pie. It's out of this world—I get mud pie everywhere I go... I just love it—and this slice was top notch. It was big enough to feed four, but as you can imagine, I ate the entire thing by myself—and savored each bite.

See more photos from our weekend surrounded by the Sawtooths below.

Redfish Lake in Stanley, Idaho
Sawtooth Mountains in Stanley, Idaho
The beautiful Sawtooths in Stanley, Idaho.
Fishing at Redfish Lake in Stanley, Idaho
Fishing off our pontoon boat. I was the unlucky one who didn't catch anything but some good sun rays that day.
Redfish Lake Lodge in Stanley, Idaho
The guys, enjoying soft serve under the shade of the lodge's patio.
Redfish Lake in Stanley, Idaho
Redfish Lake, Redfish Lake Lodge in Stanley, Idaho
Redfish Lake in Stanley, Idaho
Redfish Lake Lodge General Store in Stanley, Idaho
Redfish Lake Lodge's General Store. There were many, many treats to be found inside.
Redfish Lake Lodge in Stanley, Idaho
Redfish Lake hiking trails in Stanley, Idaho, Fishhook Creek Interpretive Trail
This is Fishhook Creek, which runs right alongside most of the trails surrounding the lodge.
Fishhook Creek Beaver in Stanley, Idaho
We spotted a beaver!
Sawtooth Mountains in Stanley, Idaho
Fishhook Creek Interpretive Trail in Stanley, Idaho

If you're in the Idaho area and looking for a getaway spot that's rustic, romantic, and boasts some of Idaho's most beautiful scenery, be sure to check out Redfish Lake. I can't wait for our next trip back.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Just a Little Bit of Blonde...

Brunette to Blonde, subtle highlights, medium length hair

Change! I love change! After giving up highlighting my hair for Bye Bye Beehive back in 2011, I thought it was time to go "back to my roots," (figuratively, of course) and put a little bit of blonde back in my life. Of my 27 years, I've been blonde for 25 of them—you can see the evolution of my hair's many colors here—so most people know me best as a blonde. In fact, each time I talk to Nanny (my grandma), she asks me if I'm back to blonde yet. I'm fairly certain I made her day when I emailed her a photo of my updated 'do.

I haven't highlighted my hair since May of 2011, and after that I let it grow out to a natural ombre until I dyed it brunette in March of 2013. I haven't touched it since April 2013... the dark brunette faded & grew out and I was more or less at my hair's natural dark (dirty) blonde state until now. I'm not sure where it will go from here (I have a tentative appointment to go blonder next month)... but it's fun to play with it. Hair is hair, right?

If you're in the Boise area and looking for a stylist, I go to Kendall at Roots Salon. I'm happy to give you her number if you'd like to book an appointment!

P.S. This is the best before & after I could muster—you've gotta love the iPhone selfie shot!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The First Post-BMT Drill

Air National Guard Drill Weekend, Air National Guard UTA, Idaho Air National Guard, 124 Fighter Wing

This weekend, I was privileged to attend my first Air National Guard drill weekend as an Airman in uniform. Man, that felt good! I had attended our wing's UTA's (UTA = uniform training assembly = drill) for five months prior to leaving for Basic Training, but it was different because I was part of Student Flight (where I learned what BMT was all about) and in my civilian clothes—where I felt as though I stuck out like a sore thumb. It was so much better to be at drill in ABU's... so much better.

Since I haven't received my formal technical training yet, I assumed I would be a BIT (break-in-training) instructor for Student Flight. Instead, I worked both days over in customer service learning a little bit more about my new job in personnel. I was fortunate to be able to go back and speak to Student Flight on two separate occasions, but I was also glad to spend the majority of the time in my new office. The folks over at customer service are just great. They welcomed me right in—I can't wait to spend drill weekends with them in the future.

I experienced a few highlights this weekend... first, as soon as drill began Saturday morning, I was honored by our wing's Command Chief Master Sergeant and my two new supervisors with a special presentation in front of Student Flight. Our Command Chief said some nice words about me and shared the awards I received in BMT (honor grad, Top Pt, etc) with the future trainees. It was a neat tribute to be a part of... I hadn't had any idea they were going to do something like that! To be recognized by one of the leaders who I look up to the most was so special to me.

Then on Sunday, our Mission Support Group Commander (a Colonel) gave me a special invitation to join him and our First Sergeant at Student Flight to speak about BMT and growing as an airman and person with the Air Force. We all spoke together for over an hour—I was able to share so many of my stories and experiences from BMT—it was great! After the presentation, I was awarded a challenge coin from our First Sergeant in front of my new department—talk about an honor! I feel so blessed to be a part of the 124th Fighter Wing, to be an Airman serving our country, and honestly, to be receiving some positive attention from a few leaders in my chain of command who I truly look up to and deeply respect.

This is only the beginning. While watching the sergeants work away this weekend and all of the people they helped in my new office—I knew it was going to be the right place for me. I have three months until I leave for tech school, and I can't wait to get that training out of the way so I am able to return home and begin my job as a traditional (one weekend a month only) in personnel. I've got some big dreams ahead for my career as an Airman, and I'm so thrilled to finally be getting that journey underway. It's going to be an adventure, I can tell you that. And with each drill, each salute, each day of training, and each step, it becomes more and more of an honor to serve our great country with the Air National Guard. Oh, what a journey it will be!

Monday, July 7, 2014

The 4th in McCall

Payette Lake in McCall Idaho

Since returning from BMT, I feel like we've been on one vacation after another—and I'm not complaining! This past week, we turned the 4th of July holiday into a four-day weekend and snuck off to McCall, Idaho to join my dad and his wife for the Independence Day celebration.

We fished—Daniel caught a monster!—we people watched at the Mile High Marina, ate delicious food (and plenty of ice cream), played cards, and best of all—we relaxed. For this trip, we decided to bring our bikes along—and boy, we're glad we did. We arrived in McCall and parked our car on Wednesday night and didn't touch it again until we returned home on Sunday morning. We biked everywhere we went, which was easy, considering that my dad's wife's cabin is a mile from the lake.

It was just an awesome and fun-filled vacation. Oh, and the firework show was amazing. If you're in the Idaho area for the 4th and are looking for a good firework show, Payette Lake brings only the best.

Fishing Payette Lake in McCall Idaho
Daniel did catch a much bigger fish as well, promise!
4th of July at Payette Lake in McCall Idaho
The mayhem on Payette Lake during the 4th.
4th of July at Payette Lake in McCall Idaho
Relaxing on the party barge before the big firework show.
4th of July at Payette Lake in McCall Idaho
Ready for the fireworks!
4th of July at Payette Lake in McCall Idaho
Our friends Casey and Erica joined us for the firework celebration.

What an awesome 4th it was. It felt a little different now—you know, since joining the military. It feels good. I am very, very proud to be an American, that's for sure. God bless the U.S.A.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

BMT: Highlights & Final Thoughts

Basic Military Training—what a trip. It's hard to believe I've been home for three weeks already. When people ask to hear my stories, it's hard to pick and choose what to talk about. There's just so much that happened and that I experienced in that short 8.5-week period of time. And yes, it was short. Though each day seemed to drag on forever, the weeks flew past at lightning speed, and it's crazy to think that it's all already over. I'm very grateful it's over—of course—but I'm also grateful for each test, each trial, and each adventure that took me through it, because I grew so much as a person and Airman.

Clearly, I could talk all day about BMT. Truly, I loved it (somedays more than others...). But in an effort to leave some element of surprise for future trainees and to not turn my life's diary into a BMT blog, I'll share just a couple highlights and neat things I experienced and then get back to the "sauce" that you've all come to know.

Read on for some of the highlights & final thoughts about my time at Air Force Basic Military Training.



Air Force BMT Dorms, BMT Clothing Drawer
My clothing drawer. Though not perfect, my t-shirts never got demerits—they were always on point.
Air Force BMT Dorms, BMT Wall Locker
My wall locker.
Air Force BMT Dorms, BMT Security Drawer
My security drawer. What a comfort it was to see my sweet husband's face each time I opened it.

The dorms... oh, the dorms. I was in the 322nd Training Squadron (the old dorms) and I'm so glad that I got to go through BMT as an Eagle. I loved the fact that we were in the old dorms. We got to live in the same dorms, sleep in the same beds, and use the same showers that trainees before us have been using for generations. How cool is that? I loved it. Granted, it was old—the paint was chipping, the lockers were dented, the beds were ancient, and we had 6 shower heads to share amongst the other 46-girls in my flight. Yet still, I wouldn't have traded my experience for anything.

My detail in the dorms was Pad Crew, and I tell you what... that's the detail of all details. I was able to get out of the dorm each morning and each evening to sweep the pad under our dorm that we form up on several times per day. I got to watch the sun rise and the set almost each day, escaping the drama that always seemed to unfold during details.

There were days when my flight mates were loud (thinking back, were there days when they were quiet? That's the real question). There were days when I just wanted to escape. And then there were days that I took in every moment and just laughed at the shenanigans that went on around me. When living with a group of girls that big and in such tight quarters, never are you ever going to get along with every single one of them. But each day I reminded myself that I was being paid to make new friends, develop professional relationships, and receive a once-in-a-lifetime training experience. It made it all so worth it.


Air Force BMT Band Flight

When I arrived at BMT, I told myself one thing over and over—"Please don't put me in band flight, please don't put me in band flight." Needless to say, I got put in band flight. Never have I ever touched an instrument, nor had any type of rhythm to speak of. The idea of playing any sort of instrument was so laughable to me, but when I was put in band flight, I sucked it up and put forth my best effort. I was assigned to the cymbals, which aren't exactly the hardest things to figure out, and surprisingly, I did quite well at them. But, like I said, how hard is it to figure out crash-2-3-4-5-6-7-8?

If anything, I enjoyed band practice. We typically had it two days per week and I felt like I got an extra workout in after smashing the cymbals together for two hours. Plus, our instructors were humorous and I always got a good chuckle out of their rants and long-winded escapades.

Here's the thing about band flight, you do everything else that every other flight does... you just also do band on top of it. Based on your instrument, you have the opportunity to play at graduations as early as your 4th week, so it's awesome to get to experience the ceremonies ahead of time to know what to expect. Overall, I was proud to be a part of band flight. I wouldn't trade that experience—nor the new buff arms!—for anything.


Air Force BMT Obstacle Course
Warming up for the O-Course.
Air Force BMT Obstacle Course

During our 4th week, we got down and dirty at the Obstacle Course. I had a ton of fun with it. We climbed over ropes, crawled under logs, jumped off platforms, weaved over wooden barricades, and swung across ponds. I got dirty, I got sweaty, and I accomplished the entire course without falling in the water or sustaining any injuries.

Rumor has it that the O-Course will be seeing its final days soon due to the number of trainees that become injured while going through it, so I was grateful to have the chance to complete it.


BEAST—holy moly BEAST. During our 6th week, we were bused over to BEAST for several days of living in a mock-deployment environment. Our flight was combined with three other male flights and we all lived in tents in a big, sandy camp. We sweat (oh, how we sweat!), we learned how to shoot, we trekked through the sand everywhere we went, and my favorite—ate MRE's (yum)!

I had a very different experience at BEAST than most. I was our flight's BEAST Monitor (essentially Dorm Chief for the week). When we arrived at BEAST, I was also assigned to the position of Zone Leader, which put me in charge of the other 208 trainees that made up the Vigilant Zone. Talk about taking some responsibility! I think I was yelled at more at BEAST than any other time at BMT—any time our zone made a mistake, I was the one who took the hit—but I didn't mind... someone had to do it! Though our zone didn't achieve BEAST Excellence, I still gained valuable leadership experience and made several new friends along the way.


Air Force BMT Guideon Bearer

After our initial PT test (and my pull-up score), I was appointed Alternate Guideon Bearer. Apparently, our MTI's thought that being strong equaled great potential for Guideon Bearer. I was honored to be selected, and practiced as much as I could to learn the skill. If you are unaware, Guideon Bearers lead the flight in formation everywhere they go. The control the direction and speed of march, and it's actually a lot of responsibility and a pretty stressful job within the flight.

I was given the opportunity, instead of just sitting back and watching all the time, to carry our staff every other day. Our MTI's wanted me and our primary Guideon to be equally as great, and it's a good thing that I had the practice—our Guideon Bearer suffered a shoulder injury during the 7th week, so I took on the responsibility of carrying from there on out.

Guideon Bearer was one of the neatest opportunities I experienced at BMT. It taught me a lot about drill, gave me more confidence when marching, and totally gave me additional strength (and muscles) that I didn't know I had. What an honor it was to be the Guideon. And of course, my favorite saying will now always and forever be, "As you were, Guideon Bearer!"


BMT was unlike anything else I've ever experienced, and anything I'll ever have the chance to go through again. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I took every advantage of to better myself as a person and Airman. I learned leadership skills, trained with the best new military members in the country, and got my body into the best shape of my life. One of my favorite things was journaling each day and writing down what we did, what we endured, and how I was changing as a person. I'll treasure the memories in that journal forever!

I know that BMT has prepared me for an amazing career in the United States Air Force and Idaho Air National Guard. And what's next in my journey as an Airman? I have technical training for my AFSC in Personnel this fall, and then I'll be serving as a traditional in the Idaho Air National Guard one weekend a month. I'm so excited to see all that the Air Force has in store for me. Truly, I am ready to Aim high—fly, fight and win.

See my other Basic Military Training experiences here: I am an American Airman │ BMT: Retreat, Parade & Graduation │ BMT: Graduation Weekend in San Antonio │ BMT: PT & Top PT Award │ BMT: Highlights & Final Thoughts