Air Force brat reports as ordered

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Rachelle Smith
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
"So, where are you from?"

It's an ordinary question usually having only one answer that elicits a nod, smile and a continued conversation. However, for an Air Force brat, it's never that simple. When I was younger, that question would make me a little anxious. I always dreaded that question, not because I wasn't proud of my upbringing, but because of the confusion associated with it.

In the three seconds a person is allowed to respond to a simple question, a frantic dialog would race through my mind. Do I tell them where I was born? No, because I don't know anything about that place. Do I tell them where I went to high school? No, because I'm not really from there. Does elementary school count? What about where my family's from? But I've never been there for more than two weeks! What's the time allowance for actually being "from" a place?

At the age of 16, I had finally found a suitable response.

"I'm an Air Force brat."

The recognition, then understanding on the asker's face makes the initial anxiety disappear. The understanding is then replaced with interest. The next question is almost always, "Where have you been?"

Finally, I'm in my element. One thing a military brat can do well is rattle off a list of places they've lived easier than one recites the alphabet.

Usually the following question is, "But how do you do it? Live on the go like that?"

That one's easy. "I'm used to it."

As an Air Force brat, I learned to adapt to each new place. It wasn't always easy or fun. In October 2000, moving from Biloxi, Miss., to Anchorage, Alaska, was an adventure in and of itself. My parents decided to load us into the minivan and drive across the country, and through Canada to our new home. It took about 11 days, 5,000 pit stops and 10,000 sing-alongs to get there.

But it was the most amazing experience.

We saw animals we had only read about, mountains we had only heard about and while in the Yukon Territory, my younger brother and I made a snowman for the first time. Ten years later, we still reminisce about the little snowman with twigs for arms and pebbles for eyes.

Even now as an active duty member of the Air Force, when I see military members and their children together, I smile. They have no idea what lies ahead. Those kids will know how to interact with all kinds of people. They will accept that change is a part of life, before kids their age are ready to even acknowledge that change exists. It's a curious thing to watch and experience.

I grew to love the excitement of my mother receiving new orders. We had a family ritual. We would all go out to dinner the night she found out. Throughout the meal, we would guess different cities and beg for hints on where we would go next. We knew we would have to wait, though. When dessert came out, she would tell us with a big smile. I can't ever remember being disappointed. My parents made a celebration of the change, so I always looked at it as a good thing. And it always was.

I wouldn't trade my life as an Air Force brat for anything. I have made great friends, had irreplaceable experiences and learned countless lessons. I have loved every minute of it. Now, I'm looking forward to the day when I can share this life with some Air Force brats of my own.