Joining The Air Force Was A Good Decision

air force logo

I've been in the Air Force for 20 years, 3 months, and a couple of days. Before that, my dad was in the Air Force for 24 years. I've had (and will continue to have) a military ID card my entire life.

Given this history, I suppose it probably wasn't too much of a long shot that I ended up joining the military ... although if you had asked me when I was 18 or 19 years old, had long hair, and was working as a bartender at the RAF Mildenhall Galaxy Club, I would have told you something along the lines of "no frickin way will I EVER join the military!"

Needless to say, I did end up joining just a few years later.

Looking back, all things considered, I think it was actually quite a wise decision ... even though, at the time, it was something of an impulsive action.

Here's the story of how I joined the Air Force ...

My dad retired from the Air Force in 1989 when his tour at RAF Mildenhall England came to an end. We packed up all of our stuff, and moved to Florida. We lived with our Uncle for a couple of weeks, until mom and dad found a house about 40 miles north of St. Pete, in New Port Richie. My "room" was the garage (my choice).

My first job in Florida, was working at a telemarketing place, trying to talk people into accepting "free" vacations, that would also include the "bonus" of high pressure time-share sales seminars. I wasn't very good at it, and as a result, the pay ended up being pretty bad too ... which was doubly tough, as I was used to having literally hundreds of dollars in my pocket at any time, when I was bartending in England.

I think I lasted 3 or 4 weeks at that job.

Then I got what sounded like it was going to be my "dream job" ...

I was hired as grounds keeper at the Innisbrook golf resort. One of the benefits of the job, was that I could play Free golf at a course that hosts professional events ... heaven!

Not so fast ...

The job started at like 5am ... and I'm NOT a morning person. It also turned out to be much harder (in some ways), and more boring (in other ways) than I had expected. For instance, a typical day for me, as a new guy, might involve being given a fork, assigned a green, and instructed to remove all the of the crab grass shoots ... roots and all.

Oh yea, did I mention that we had to wear a "uniform"? It was a white button up shirt, with the Innisbrook logo, and a construction site type hard hat (to protect against errant golf balls). It was hot after the sun came up, and the hard hat and extra shirt just contributed to it.

After I'd worked there for a couple of months (and I think had only played free golf once), it wasn't so bad, but I was having a hard time imagining myself working there for the rest of my life. Then one day, things kind of accidentally came into focus ...

The head grounds keeper usually drove around in a golf cart. This particular morning, he drove up to where I was standing, and told me he needed me to spray herbicide along the edged of the 13th and 14th fairways. There was about a 50 lb canister of herbicide, with a spray nozzle on the end, sitting in the back of the golf cart. I thought to myself "sweet, I'll be riding the golf cart today"

Again, not so fast ...

He said he needed the golf cart, simply off loaded the heavy canister and drove away. To my credit, I did make it a couple hundred yards down that fairway, spray weeds the entire way. But I finally just stopped, looked around, and said "what the heck am I doing here?"

Right there and then, I took off my hard hat and shirt, folded it neatly, and placed it on top of the herbicide canister.

I then walked the short distance to U.S highway 19, stuck out my thumb, and hitchhiked .... Straight to the recruiters office!

I took the ASVAB test a couple of days later (scored 99% AFQT btw), and was eventually given a basic training date of 28 December 1989.

As some point during this process, I went down to the St. Petersburg MEPS office to choose my job.

I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do (side note: I'm now 41 years old, and still don't know what I want to be when I "grow up")

... but, I did know enough about the Air Force to realize there were some fields I definitely didn't want to go into. I needed to make sure I got a guaranteed job.

Fortunately, with my high ASVAB score, it wasn't too hard of a "demand" to get met. Here's how the process worked ...

They actually gave me a list of all the available career fields for the time frame that I would be graduating from basic training, and ready for Tech School. They told me to look through the list, and choose 5 jobs.

I honestly don't even remember what the other 4 choices were ... I just know that about 2 hours later, they came back and told me that I was going to be a Weather Man.

The intervening 20 years, seems to have flown by.

But I have a ton of good memories and experiences from my time in the Air Force. And really, considering I'm here primarily because of a very rash, spur of the moment decision, I can't complain at all about the way things have turned out.

And you know what's really funny?

My 17 year old son, when asked if he might go in the Air Force someday, quickly responds ...

"no frickin way will I EVER join the military!"

Hey Justin ... (just in case) ;-)



  1. Just like they said in "Marley and Me"... uh, I forgot what they said, but it was something along the lines of how life turns out differently than we planned it to/hoped it would, but somehow what we end up with is better than anything we could have imagined. Glad things worked out!
    .-= Heather Kephart´s last blog ..The Magical Mystery Banana =-.

  2. too never told me that story, very interesting though....
    Looking back over all these years, you've had the opportunity to travel all over the world(literally),meet interesting people :)such as myself and enjoy what you do and whom you work with, not many people can honestly say with that being said and all, i guess you made a pretty good,sporatic decision!


  3. What a neat story, thanks for sharing! Life turns out so interestingly, don't you think? :) glad it worked out for you!

  4. Hi Heather ... every once in a while, things do tend to work out not so bad .. thanks ... now about the banana ... I have too am stumped by the circles and crosses ... hmmm :-)

  5. Hey Bridget ... thanks for stopping by ... and you are right, the AF did allow me to meet some cool and interesting people, such as yourself. :-)

  6. Hi Ari ... oh yea, life is nothing, if not interesting ... sometimes I think a few periods of my life might make a good soap opera ... but then, every once in a while, things work out pretty good too. :-)

    ... btw, regarding one of Your recent blog post, I have no doubt that one day (probably soon) you will meet the person, to whom you are their everything.

    lol, and as a bonus that guy will probably end up with more pictures of himself than he's ever had in his life ;-)

  7. Lots of people have that first reaction at the thought of joining the military.

    Then they get itchy travel feet and see that the gov't will pay for them to live in some great places.

    And on top of that, "It's not just a job, it's an adventure."


  8. I think Justin has his sights set on going to college. But then...


  9. Hi dad ... yes, college is the plan ... I really did just think it was funny though, how very similar his answer was to mine, when I about that age.

  10. lol ... wait wasn't that the Army's slogan? There's been so many over the years, I get em mixed up :-)

  11. Love that story. Course, I have a different story as a military kid also that made me decide that there was no way I was going into the military; I'll have to tell you that one some day.

    Still, I know there were a lot of people to whom I recommended at least looking into military life to see what it might have to offer, especially where it pertained to a secure job and potentially getting some type of discipline in their lives. And my dad was also in the Air Force 24 years, and the army for 2 1/2 years before that, two wars, and I figured that, plus four cousins going into different military service, was enough from the Mitchells clan. lol
    .-= Mitch´s last blog ..Sunday Question: When Is There Too Much Free Speech? =-.

  12. Hi Mitch,

    Yes, it does sound like your family has contributed it's fair share. I was actually the only one of my parent's four kids who actually "followed in dad's footsteps". But you're right, I would definitely not discourage people from having a look at the military ... as long as everyone realizes that, it's not it's not a good fit for everybody ... and that's okay too. :-)

  13. Hey,that was interesting to read. thanks
    Im 19 years old and currently in college,ive been
    thinking of joining the military but im still not sure
    yet as of what to do? im so confused.
    can you give me a couple of tips as of what to expect
    if i joined the AF or Army.


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