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Serving offers opportunity, growth

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Earlier this year, I had the unique opportunity to enlist my son into the Air Force Delayed Enlistment Program. Today, he's more than halfway through basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. In the months leading up to his decision to join the Air Force, he talked a lot about different jobs he was considering, school options and he looked at each of the services. I wasn't sure what he was going to do. When he finally settled on the Air Force I was extremely proud. I started to think about what the Air Force will be like for him as I reflected on my career.

While I looked back on my days in the Air Force, I realized there are three things that are uniquely available to the military profession. They are opportunity, experience and personal growth.

I grew up on a farm in northern Wisconsin. My first flight on an airplane occurred when I was a sophomore in college, only because I had just joined the Air Force. Of course, the flight from Madison to Green Bay barely counted. But at that moment, I fell in love with flying and knew I had made the right choice. Since then, I have lived in California, Michigan, Nebraska, Virginia, Alabama, High Wycombe, England, and twice on the island of Crete. I've visited 14 countries either due to duty assignments or personal travel. That is an opportunity I couldn't have easily gotten in any other job.

With all of these opportunities, I was also gaining experience. With every move I experienced different cultures, languages and laws. These experiences taught me discipline, flexibility, organization, logistics, budget planning and administration.
Now let's look at the training Air Force members receive. Air Force training is professionally taught, concise and tough. Many of the things learned in training are valuable life lessons Airmen will carry with them forever. 

Consider all of the safety training we receive such as survival training or self-aid and buddy care, or the fact that Airmen are taught how to be responsible Wingmen and look out for their peers. 

How about the Air Force's sexual assault prevention training? Honestly, would you want to be in an organization that didn't take sexual assault seriously? How many companies do you think prepare their people like the Air Force has prepared you?

Finally, I want to look at growth in terms of the whole-person concept throughout the duration of an enlistment or commission. It may be a four, six, 10 or 20 plus year career -- it doesn't matter. By virtue of opportunity and experience, you will have personal growth. Each time you complete a course, experience a deployment or move to another job, you are growing. But there's more to it. Depending on your discipline, your motivation and your desire, you may experience a tremendous amount of personal growth. 

You can strive for a an excellent on your physical fitness test, take college courses or professional military education classes, or even learn more about our Air Force by reading books from the professional reading lists of our senior leaders. Personal growth can also be in the form of volunteering, as well as getting involved with base or community programs.

Why did I join the Air Force? Because I wanted to fly, fight and win. However, in doing so, I found unimaginable opportunities, incredible experiences and extraordinary personal growth. Airmen, I hope you consider some of these points when making a decision to reenlist, accept another assignment or when talking with a friend or family member about joining the military. I had no idea what was waiting for me when I was commissioned more than 20 years ago. 

I am extremely proud of my son's decision. Based on his first phone call from basic training, I can tell he's already had some unique experiences. No matter how long he or any military member stays on the Air Force team, they have earned the right to be proud to have served in the best military in the world.