Punching Out: Reflections on USAFA and 7 years on Active Duty

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by Blue&SilverBear, Feb 7, 2016.

  1. Blue&SilverBear

    Blue&SilverBear USAFA Alumnus

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    After almost 11 years in blue (4 at USAFA, just short of 7 AD), I've applied for separation and thought I would share my reflections on my USAFA and Air Force experiences. USAFA was my "dream school" from age 4, and it was everything I wanted and more. Just a few thoughts for candidates, appointees, Cadets, and parents...

    Work Hard and Apply for Everything
    I like to tell people that I didn't have fun at USAFA, but that I did a lot of fun things. The stuff you see on AcademyAdmissions.com and in the curriculum guide? IT'S REAL! A quick rundown of my experiences...
    - Ops to Charleston AFB, SC (beautiful city and beaches)
    - Jump
    - Soaring
    - Ops to Spangdahlem AB, Germany (also made it to Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg)
    - Summer Research at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency
    - Semester exchange at West Point
    - Olmstead Foundation trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand
    - Deployed Ops to Kuwait (stopped through Qatar)
    - MWC Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas
    - Spring Break Language Immersion in Uruguay (stopped through Argentina)

    I graduated with a double major, went straight to grad school (where I met my wife), and got my first choice on both of my AD assignments. I wouldn't have gotten most of these experiences without asking questions, applying for every opportunity, and having the grades to back up my applications.

    Make an Effort to Build Relationships
    My biggest regret from USAFA is that I am not better friends with my squadron-mates. Part of that is my fault, and every squadron has cliques, but I've worked hard to not make the same mistakes with my fellow officers on AD.

    Choose Your AFSC Carefully
    I had great reasons for why I chose my AFSC, and it was my first choice coming out of USAFA. None of those reasons apply any more, and while I have had a positive experience in the Air Force, this is not something I can see myself doing for the rest of my career. But don't use any lack of satisfaction with your Air Force job as an excuse to slack off... put the same effort into your AD job as you do as a Cadet. I've been very successful in the Air Force, and feel like I'm going out on top and on my own terms.

    You Have Great Options in the Air Force and Civilian World
    Don't be afraid to look at your options- both in and outside the Air Force. Being dead set on getting out at 5 years is just as foolish as being sure that you're doing 20 years when you graduate. Your plans are going to change more times than you can count. Even more when you get married and have kids... Use each assignment as a chance to look at your marketability, personal goals and what you want to do with your life.

    So What's Next?
    You know that nervous feeling between getting your appointment and Inprocessing? It comes back. My goal was to make a transition into financial services, and I have been selected for a veterans internship program with one of the top banks in the world. I'm heading back to my (major city) hometown and I couldn't be more excited. I'm going to stay in the Air Force Reserve as an ALO and am looking forward to giving back to USAFA and sharing these experiences with the future of the Long Blue Line.
     
    Falcon#1, dreamusafa, B52LTA and 17 others like this.
  2. brovol

    brovol Member

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    How did you enjoy your semester at West Point? How do you compare USMA with USAFA? Academics the same? How about the rest of the experience? Do you recommend others at academies doing a semester at one of the other SA's? Can anyone do that?
     
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  3. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I'll be interested to hear what you think of the transition out.

    I've found the Coast Guard wasn't the most helpful service during the process and is generally horrible at interacting with Coast Guard veterans.
     
  4. OR-MOM

    OR-MOM Member

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    thanks for your thoughtful and useful reflection on your time at USAFA and the Air Force. the suggestions for making the most of your time while at USAFA are really helpful. thanks
     
  5. Momof4

    Momof4 Member

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    What an amazing career! Thank you for sharing!
     
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  6. F15DOC

    F15DOC Member

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    Cheers!! Getting close to checking out myself, it was a hard enough transition going from fighters to heavies, I can't imagine how hard it will be to walk away altogether... Good luck, you will probably be surprised just how much you are going to miss the camaraderie, there is nothing like it in the financial civilian world...
     
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  7. Wishful

    Wishful Parent

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    Wish you all the best!
     
  8. g041rf0rc3

    g041rf0rc3 Member

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    Good luck
     
  9. brovol

    brovol Member

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    ....now don't punch out before answering my questions about your semester at West Point.
     
  10. FalconsRock

    FalconsRock Parent

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    You have offered some very sage advice. I will make sure to copy this and keep it for my DD as she starts her own journey.

    Thank you for your service and I wish you all the best on your next adventure to civilian life.
     
    B52LTA likes this.
  11. USMCGrunt

    USMCGrunt Member

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    Well said! This point comes up every once and while on here and I always chuckle at the emphatic posts on either side of that decision when the author hasn't even served one day on active duty.

    Congratulations on your decision and thank you for your service.
     
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  12. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Here's some advice about getting out, the only people you should seek guidance from are people on the outside (especially folks who have transitioned too).

    Senior officers still in know nothing of the transition or the outside (and don't know what they don't know).
     
    NavyHoops likes this.
  13. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Moderator

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    Great post and thanks for taking the time to write it. Good luck to you! Brings up alot of memories when I did the transition. I did mine at the 5 year mark and was really the first of my friends to make this change. Hopefully your city has a great Alumni Assoc. That really helped keep me connected and develop some of the camaraderie I missed from the USMC. Being an ALO I am sure will help with that too. The part I really enjoyed about starting the next phase of my life was the freedom. The thought of being able to quit or find another job was great if I didn't like things. Obviously there are external factors like money, insurance, short job lengths on a resume, but I found the ability to change things if I didn't like them very freeing. The best advice I can give to anyone starting their first outside employment is to keep your ears and eyes open, take whatever they give you and make it your own and keep that initiative you developed in the USAF and use it daily in your new job. Good luck!
     
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  14. Blue&SilverBear

    Blue&SilverBear USAFA Alumnus

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    When I was a Cadet you could do an exchange semester at USMA, USNA, USCGA, and a handful of foreign academies. You generally apply during your 3 degree year and go in your 2 degree year for the US academies (I don't know anything about foreign ones). Its really competitive as only 10-12 Cadets get to go on exchange to USMA and USNA and I think just around 4-6 to USCGA each semester. It was a paper application and an interview with officers from each service.

    I like to say that USMA wasn't harder, but life was a little more miserable. Army Cadets get fewer privileges and are in a much more isolated location. Academics were easier. Significantly more military training, and it was more practical/applicable post-graduation.

    It was an amazing experience and I met some really great people. I'm proud to be 1/8 West Point gray. I had the challenge and honor to lead soldiers (and Airmen and even a Naval officer) at a joint exercise, and I think being able to "speak Army" definitely helped.

    It was also a great change of scenery for a semester! You will never see colors like the leaves in upstate NY in the fall!
     
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  15. cezme

    cezme Member

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    Thank you for taking time to share your reflection and thank you for service. All the best as you transition in the financial services world, you will be a great addition to any company. God bless.
     
  16. CadetUSAFA

    CadetUSAFA Member

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    Thank you for your service and for sharing your personal experiences. That exchange program at other SA's sound like a great opportunity. A lot of those things you listed sound awesome! I will definitely have to do some research. Best of wishes in your transition.
     

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