New place, new life

EIELSON.AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- An Airman's first duty station is monumental to his or her Air Force career. It can make or break the road to success.

Try to think back to when you received your orders for your first duty assignment. Were you happy with what you saw? Maybe you were upset. At the very least, I am willing to bet that you were either excited or confused.

For me, it was more the latter than the former - I had no clue that Eielson was even a location for the Air Force. The first words out of my mouth after reading my assignment were, "Where on God's green earth is this place?" It just so happened to be that Eielson was located in a state where a more fitting phrase would have been "God's white earth." That, however, is not the point of this.

Coming to Eielson, many young Airmen may imagine the worst-case scenario - being stationed at a place where darkness is more common than light, where the bitter cold seems to last forever, where people stay inside because there is no possible way to be active. If they don't have this mindset before they arrive, it's not uncommon for it to be developed shortly after arriving.

Why? Is it because research was done to understand the location? Is it because they had been here before? Or was it because of their peers - the people who surround them, the people who mentor them and should be guiding them?

Whatever the case may be, I can't imagine being a new Airman stationed at such a unique location and arriving to sour attitudes and negativity toward Eielson; how many times have you heard someone say, "This place is awful" or, "I can't wait to get out of here"? Whether it comes from a supervisor or a fellow Airman is moot; the negativity should not exist to begin with.

I suppose this plays into the resiliency training recently done here. Negativity flows downstream - if a supervisor or superior has problems with a location, it's only a matter of time before the lower-ranking personnel start to feel the same way.

Regardless of where a first-term Airman ends up, they should have goals as well as expectations over a multitude of areas. They must expect of themselves only the best - a commitment to Eielson and the Iceman Team that will leave an impression beyond their time here. But, perhaps more importantly, they should also expect more from their peers.

It's a two-way street. What Airmen get, of course, is usually determined by what they give - but not always. And that is what the point of this is. In order for new Airmen to be successful, there must be a properly paved path their peers have built for them to follow. Not a broken walkway where one is prone to stumble.

Airmen, regardless of rank, rely on a support network - it is a given that human beings need to lean on each other to get through the rough patches of life. We are all human, and, by default, need one another. After all, the Air Force is a family. We should feel like we're home no matter where we go because of the people who surround us.

For some of you reading this, it is possible that it has been a good amount of time since you were at your first base. But I guarantee you remember that base. And I guarantee that you'd say it was one of your best assignments. So let your fellow Airmen know that this will be one of their best as well.