Well this will be a pretty big change from all the blogs you’ve checked out about beach trips, summers abroad, and cool internships. Instead of doing any of the above, I just spent the first half of my summer down at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama participating in Field Training. This is the Air Force ROTC version of boot camp, and once you pass it you’re well on your way to becoming an officer in the real Air Force. Needless to say, I’m so excited that I made it through. And even better, against all odds- I had a blast.
Field Training is a very different environment, not only because you wake up at 4 AM and have to make hospital corners on your bed, but because you’re constantly evaluated and pushed to improve yourself. From the basics of marching to commanding a group of 50 plus people, my leadership skills were constantly put to the test, and I loved it. In the real world, leading 50 people in the wrong direction would probably cost you your job. But at Field Training, it’s a learning experience that you can only benefit from. Sure, it’s scary to get yelled at for saying or doing the wrong thing, but figuring out how to make a decision in a high stress environment is something I’ll have to do in any future career. Being an engineer especially, I know there will be times when I have to make choices that could affect hundreds of people. Having the skills to consider numerous factors at once and make a quick decision will be extremely helpful. On a less stressful note, our training also included cool things like combatives, an M-16 and M-9 shooting range, obstacle and confidence courses, and tons of other things you can’t find out unless you join!
In addition to improving myself as a leader, the most important lesson I learned at Field Training was teamwork. I could not have made it through four weeks of constant pressure and stress without my awesome teammates. We started out as complete strangers from all over the country, with different opinions and attitudes. But we quickly discovered we couldn’t succeed as individuals, and before we knew it we were making each other’s beds and carrying someone else’s duffel bag. By the end of training, we were completing missions like it was our job—which it was, and we earned our Prop and Wings for it.
Although not every day was fun, I can honestly say I had a great experience and definitely learned more than I thought possible in one month. I guess it helped that we were up for 17 hours a day and constantly being corrected, but I’m proud of the fact that I was no longer marching people into a wall by the last day of training. I met some truly amazing people and can’t wait to reconnect in the real Air Force. As for now, I plan on waking up no later than 10 AM the rest of summer and definitely never making my bed. Hope everyone is enjoying their vacations and being adventurous!