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Airmen share a greater purpose

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- I am sure most of you have been asked this infamous question: Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001? I was working as a civilian nurse in a labor and delivery unit in an inner city hospital. I was in the same place during the December 2004 tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

In both instances, I specifically remember the images of devastation shown on the news. The United States military provided support in one form or another to the victims, such as search and recovery or medical care. I remember having feelings of respect for those service members.

Wouldn't it be awesome to help people in need anywhere in the world? I should have been more satisfied in my present job, but something was lacking. I needed an opportunity to do something more, be something more, have a greater purpose. It was then I decided to join the Air Force.

I thought the Air Force would provide me, a nurse, the perfect opportunity to assist others on a greater scale. I commissioned in the Air Force as a Captain in the Nurse Corps, (I was given credit for my civilian experience). Truthfully, no one prepared me for my welcome at Commissioned Officers Training. As my husband dropped me off and drove away, I was getting "instruction" on how to stand at attention and to "stop smiling!"

Upon entering the building to inprocess, I was still smiling, to the dissatisfaction of the officer escorting me. I couldn't help it. By this time I was really nervous and my natural reaction is to smile. After getting the inprocessing paperwork done, I finally got to my room, met my roommate and fell asleep.

Approximately 3:30 a.m. I heard people yelling in the hallway to, "get up and get out of your rooms." I thought there might be a fire or some other emergency. No, it was actually time to get up for physical training. All of us were up until 11 p.m. the night before being yelled at for various infractions (at least it wasn't just me).

After PT, there was breakfast, clean up, classes, lunch, marching, more class, then dinner. At meals, we weren't allowed to talk or look at each other in the food line. After my first day, I called my husband and informed him I didn't sign up for this kind of treatment, and I certainly did not sign-up to be yelled at.

After all, I left my parents' house quite some years before. Well, my husband wasn't very sympathetic being former Army enlisted. Basically, his message to me was, "just deal with it, things will get better."

So I adjusted, and was surprised that I learned many things as my COT experience continued. One is the sum of the parts (individual Airman) makes up the whole (Air Force). Each person is an individual. However, these individuals work together toward a greater goal - the Mission.

I learned that effective teamwork is critical to mission success. Everyone has his or her own integral part to play in achieving the mission.

I also learned the core values: integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do. Even though I practiced those values in my civilian nursing career, I began to embrace them and internalize them. Beginning with my experiences at COT, the core values have guided me in the decisions I make in my daily life. Using the core values as a guide not only makes decision making easier, it also leads me to make the best decision.

Since joining the Air Force, I have had many fulfilling experiences as an officer and nurse knowing I share a greater purpose with my fellow Airmen. Although my start at COT was shaky and I was at times second guessing my decision, I have not regretted it at all. I have met Airmen from all walks of life with a wide variety of jobs who embrace and live the core values daily. I have seen Airmen put others before themselves and assist others. To put it simply, they were being a wingman. I am grateful to have met these individuals, look forward to meeting others, and proud to serve with each and every one.