Blending with a new community

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Perras
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The winter season often brings about a sense of fulfillment through the act of giving. For one Iceman, this extends beyond physical gifts. Instead, he is using his voice to give back to others.

2nd Lt. Nicholas Gumley, 354th Comptroller Squadron financial services officer, and his wife, Jana, 354th Fighter Wing Chapel Services Catholic pastoral and religious education coordinator, came to Alaska with the idea of fitting into the local culture. Following a passion for music, the two joined the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra-Chorus this year and recently participated in the group's holiday concert.

Gumley said he and Jana were mainly searching for something to do together, whether that meant giving back to the community through volunteering or simply getting involved locally.

"The Air Force puts people in a unique position - you spend three or four years in an area, a different community that might not be your home community, or one you're not used to," Gumley said. "This was the perfect opportunity to get involved in the community and reach out to a culture we're not familiar with. Doing what we can to integrate ourselves is a big goal that we've had and want to stick to for the time we're here."

Given Alaska's challenges, Gumley said it can be easy for Airmen to become discouraged about the location. His view, however, is if you get to know people, it becomes easier to acclimate.

"You meet people by getting out - one of the biggest components of a culture is the people," he explained. "Every person has a story, every person has a background; they have skills and talents that are different from others. You'll never learn or get to see those unless you go out and meet them."

The experience, Gumley said, is reciprocal. By sharing perspectives and life experiences, it becomes a mutually beneficial experience.

Even so, it becomes a risk to step outside one's comfort zone, Gumley continued. For him, the risk was singing in public. But in the long run, it builds character.

"Overall, being put in that vulnerable position where you're doing something you're not used to is something you can learn from - it challenges you," he said. "If you're put into a challenge, it tests your abilities in reacting to that challenge and how you handle it and what you do to get to the end result."

Gumley said this experience has helped him develop his outlook on the Air Force. Although Airmen move from place to place, there is something positive to see in any location.

"In the Air Force, it can be different from other jobs in the civilian sector," Gumley said. "On the same token, some jobs might move you to a different place, like the Air Force does, but the Air Force can be a harsher situation. Either way, whatever community you're in, there are people there. And we all have something to offer and something to provide."

The end goal is to get involved so you can have a better experience wherever you go, Gumley said. It only hurts an individual by being upset over a location if nothing is being done to make light of it.

"The greatest joy in volunteering this time to the symphony is that the service is mutually appreciated," said Gumley. "What better way to reach out into the community and integrate yourself into a new culture? Reach out and see what you can get out of the community, and what you can give back."