How a “Young” Airman took the initiative

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Earlandez Young
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
It's been a little more than a year in a half since I, a young, Alabama native dedicated my life to the Air Force. In January 2010, I stepped up to the plate and made the decision to join the military knowing it could, but not knowing it would, change my life - forever.

But, let's go back a little in time to show you how this great journey came about. You may say, "Wow, what makes your journey into the Air Force so awesome?" I never said it was awesome, just special - to me.

In May 2009, I was completing my senior year at Gardendale High School, Gardendale, Ala. If I could describe myself with one word my senior year, it would be - Alpha Male - well, two words.

I wouldn't say I had a big head, but I felt as though I had it all. Many people said I was one of the most likeable students in school, a good student, good grades and an athlete - but, looking back, I'll admit - I was oblivious to this.

When May 24, 2009 came, I was excited about receiving my diploma and ecstatic about not having to return the next year, but being an athlete or "cool" didn't mean anything anymore. I had no career; I mean not even a stepping stone to a career. Heck, I hadn't even thought of a career besides being in the National Football League or playing for the L.A. Lakers.

Well, maybe I'll get a nine-to-five job and live the average life or I could live off my mom and dad until something happens - I mean something good is bound to happen right? Nah, that wasn't me at all and yep, I knew it. I wanted to do something different, something no one in my family had ever done, something that would put me above the average individual my age and more importantly put me in a position to do and accomplish great things.

Even though I wanted great things for my life, initially I didn't show any sense of care. After high school, I kept my job as a "table busser" at Cracker Barrel and lived the free life or so I thought. I had a daily routine, which was wake-up, go to work, get off work, party with friends, party with friends and you guessed it -- party with friends.

Hey! Don't point the finger at me. Why think about a career when I'm so young and have my whole life ahead of me. Think about it. Plus, what else do I have to accomplish. I had already completed 12 years, 2,400 days, 19,200 hrs and 5,208 minutes of school!

In December 2009, I guess my mother got tired of waking up and seeing me in the kitchen every morning eating all of her food and tossed me a book.

"ASVAB," I said with a dull look on my face.

My mother said, "Yes, it's a test on basic knowledge such as math, reading and what not."

"So, are you calling me dumb?" I asked her laughing.

She said, "No silly; the ASVAB is a required test for entrance into the military."

"Military!" I said with rage in my voice.

You see, I come from a city where you'll rarely see a military uniform or hear about a community relations event. I'd heard about the military, but I had never known what a servicemember even meant to our country.

Even though my mother wanted me to join the Air Force, it was something I'd never thought of. I told her I would think about it, and after she bugged me about it for a week or two, I decided to take the test - I failed.

I hadn't failed a test since I could remember. It wasn't hard at all, so why did I fail? I thought long and hard about it and came to the conclusion that I failed the test because my heart wasn't set on joining the Air Force -- yet.

2010 came, and I wanted to start the year off right. I was eager to know everything there was to know about the Air Force, so I began to research Air Force history, bases, jobs, aircraft, units, deployments and well basically anything I could get my hands on. I found lots of interesting facts about the Air Force and knew deep inside this is what I wanted as a steppingstone or even a career.

By mid-February 2010, I had studied the ASVAB book thoroughly. One evening, my mom drove me to the local Air Force recruiting office, which was at least an hour away from home to take the test. I went in with my heart, mind, body and soul set on passing with flying colors.

I came out of the classroom smiling from ear-to-ear to meet my mom at the front entrance who could tell by my expression I had conquered the Air Force test. I passed the general section with 94 percent. I felt as though I had gone in a civilian and came out an Airman, even though months later at Basic Military Training I found out that wasn't true.

Now, in this year and time, I'm a photojournalist at the 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs office, where I tell the Fairchild Air Force Base story to local, regional and global audiences, both military and civilian.

It's been a wonderful journey since taking the initiative to have a better lifestyle. Since joining, I've learned it's a wonderful feeling to be a leader, but sometimes it's better to follow. Some of us are better at things than others, and we can learn from each other - rank isn't a factor. I now know how important it is to make sure you take care of family, and the Wingman concept has helped me realize that. I have an Air Force family who I care for tremendously. You never know how someone is feeling inside, if they don't tell you, so I always talk to people who I'm around daily to see how their doing and if there's anything I can do to help.

I've also learned that no problem is too big to solve. With teamwork, anything can be accomplished, and I've seen it in person by completing the mission day in and day out with Team Fairchild.

I have always heard the term, "practice makes perfect", and I think it can be switched up and used in many ways, such as "training makes perfect." We do on-the-job training to help us understand and perform our job better. Every day we go to the gym, we are training our body to be physically fit, which helps us when it's time for a fitness assessment test.

Last, but not least, we do many training exercises to prepare us for real world circumstances such as: M-16 training, chemical warfare training and BEAST week during BMT, which simulates a deployed environment. These skills and abilities are an important asset to servicemembers overseas as well as stateside.

I've accomplished many of my short-term goals and don't plan to stop reaching for the stars. My career has taken off like a rocket, and beyond the sky is the limit. The key to success is to grasp it. Don't wait for success! Go get it! We as young Airmen should be proud of what we represent and the accomplishments and sacrifices we make on a daily basics.