I served a combined total of 11 years in the Air Force Reserves & the Air National Guard. This is what I learned before, during and after:
1) I was 30 when I decided to join and I learned that I was not too old to enlist. Applicants without prior service must be: 17 to 39 years old .
2) My less than perfect credit (at the time) could have disqualified me.
3) The military entrance exam the " Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery" (ASVAB) revealed that my mechanical comprehension was my surprise hidden talent.
4) The pre-enlistment physical exam was not a place for shyness as it was very invasive. Very!
5) Recruiters are informative but do not and cannot possibly relay all of the pertinent information. I had to learn for myself and accept the facts.
6) Enlistment constituted automatic enrollment into the Community College of The Air Force.
7) Family support and opinions were at odds. I was either besieged with negative comments (labeled crazy) or praised for bravery and patriotism.
8) The Air Force invests heavily for physicals, training and education.
9) Not everyone could meet the entry requirements
10) Every tattoo, scar, birth-mark, mole, dental filling or dental cavity gets documented.
Enlistment- Basic Military Training (BMT)
11) I learned that I should not have assumed that I could change my clothes after reporting to BMT. I marched in clogs for 2 days before receiving a military clothing issue. Ouch! Yes, this was learned too late;
12) The U.S. Chain of Command and I realized that I should have already known this pre-enlistment as well.
13) Being a slow eater was not advantageous with only 15 minutes to eat. I lost more weight than I could afford. I did gain impressive muscle mass instead.
14) How to shoot an M16, not sure why but I found it therapeutic
15) How to make a bed with hospital corners and meticulously fold clothes (I actually shaved the lint off of my socks).
16) Adaptability, my maturity was recognized by my instructors and resulted in a role as mentor to struggling trainees. My sleeping arrangements and physical training schedule was altered multiple times to pair with other trainees.
18) Self-discipline to constantly challenge my myself to always exceed the minimum physical requirement
19) It's better to hurry up and wait instead of getting yelled at for being on time. There If you were on time you are already late.
20) Complaining was a waste of time.
21) Perseverance, I wanted to quit every day that first week and part of the second.
22) The easiest way through BMT was to complete it one day at a time.
23) I was challenged more psychologically than physically. Still holds true!
24) Training Instructors (TI's) could get 60 females to shower, shampoo and brush teeth in 15 minutes.
25) In most cases a good wing-man will always be your good friend.
26) MRE's lasts for decades & my digestive system could not tolerate them longer than 1 week.
27) Learned the benefits of staying hydrated. Drinking 3 glasses of water before each meal proved to be a great appetite suppressor. This is okay to try at home.
28) How to conduct audio metric testing, interpret results and calibrate equipment independently.
29) A well structured environment was not exempt from the dysfunctional. I befriended a few and unfriended a couple.
30) Good leaders listen to and learn from their troops They memorize and program their troops cell phone numbers.
31) When flying inside of military aircraft's they're always bitter cold. It felt like I was out on the wing.
32) Service was worth the sacrifice I transferred skills to the civilian world. 33) Goal setting: accomplished 3 preset milestones: earned a college degree, traveled abroad and promoted to Sgt. 34) I learned that life lessons are not realized right away.
35) Finally, I learned that everyone's military experience differed. Factors like environmental/ cultural and external influences; or personality/ perspectives, maturity and tolerance levels, could all affect a person's overall experience.