A year behind me

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Cassandra Whitman
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The decision to join the Air Force came after a long family discussion and personal reflection.

My husband, Mitch, joined the Air Force in 2013. We were engaged before he decided that the Air Force would provide him opportunities to learn new things, make money and provide for us.

After we moved to Eielson in July 2013, Mitch was busy working and learning new things to better himself at his job every day. In September 2013 I started to think, "what if I joined?" I spoke with my husband several times to discuss what being a mil-to-mil couple would be like. I prayed every night for wisdom and comfort in my decision.

My Air Force journey began May 1, 2014. I went to the recruiter's office in Fairbanks, Alaska, and he told me he could have me on a plane to Anchorage to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and swear in by the following week.

On May 6, I arrived at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Anchorage, took my ASVAB and swore in to join the world's greatest Air Force.

I took my results envelope proudly to my recruiter when I returned the following day and he told me I could have almost any job I wanted. We made my list, but he told me it could take months, maybe even up to a year to get the job I wanted.

In July, I got a phone call offering me a biomedical job; a phone call that I missed due to working. I got home that night, made dinner for my husband, and when he got home I cried. I thought I missed my chance at something amazing.

Little did I know, God had a bigger plan for me. A couple weeks later, I got another phone call. This time, I was prepared. I answered and he offered me a photojournalism job. I didn't know too much about it, but I thought it would be an awesome opportunity. So I accepted.

On Dec. 28, 2014, I arrived at Basic Military Training in Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. I was scared, nervous and tired. I had difficult flights, and because of that, five other trainees and I arrived late. By the time we were assigned squadrons, received our briefings, found our bunks and closed our eyes, the sound of reveille played and I was startled awake.

The second week in, I started having my doubts. The "why did I do this" and "what was I thinking" questions started creeping in. I missed my husband, and I wanted to go home, but I didn't. I reminded myself why I joined and that my husband would be waiting for me on graduation day.

I pushed through the rest of BMT with the encouragement of my husband, family and fellow trainees. After BMT, I was headed to Fort George G. Meade, Md. for technical training.

Being a mil-to-mil couple is a challenge all in itself. Being gone for another four months of training was starting to take its toll on our relationship. We hit rocky patches and both of us shed many tears along the way. Still early in our marriage, we had hit that place everyone said would come.

This struggle, along with the pressure I put on myself to do well in tech school, started to weigh heavy on my shoulders and my heart, but I made it through this time with the help of my wingmen and friends I made along the way.

In July 2015, I finally graduated tech school. Although my husband is stationed here, I was told there were no available spots for my job at that time, so I tried to make the best of the orders I received to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, 400 miles from my husband.

At the last minute, an Airman from the class behind me received orders to Eielson. He was willing to switch his orders with mine, and my military training leader pulled off a miracle, getting the amendment to the orders made in time for me to leave. I was finally heading back to Eielson to be with my husband.

Reflecting on the last five months here as a photojournalist, just a week away from my one-year anniversary in the military, I couldn't be more proud of the life I chose.

From being mil-to-mil and facing months of separation for training and temporary duty assignments, to meeting the wonderful Airmen and mentors I have in my office, I have had one heck of a year.

Through the ups and downs, the good and the bad, the friends I have made and the friends I have lost, I can say without a doubt that I made the best decision of my life.