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Reflections on an Air Force career

TSgt Feliz

Tech. Sgt. Manuel Feliz, 71st Operations Support Squadron, Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Terry Wasson)

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- I enlisted in the military right out of high school to serve my nation and for the occupational and educational opportunities.

There are many reasons people enlist in the military. Whatever those reasons are, they are usually most important at the beginning. As time passes and one matures, you learn to appreciate many other aspects of military service.

By the time you reach the end of a 20-year career, the reasons you continued to serve are different than the ones you initially enlisted for.  

It is often said that the first assignment makes or breaks one’s desire to continue serving. My first assignment was MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.

What I cherish most about my first base was the camaraderie and morale of my first work center. Even though Tampa had plenty of things to do, we spent lots of time together with right-after-work cookouts and shop get-togethers on the weekends.

What I learned from that experience is that the people you spend the majority of your time with, although initially complete strangers, can end up being like a family.

Now, at the end of my career, I realize that I continued to serve because of the people. In my 20-year career, the Air Force taught me how to adapt to new challenges. And most important for me, the Air Force taught me the value of people, both in learning how to rely on others and in creating lifelong bonds.

I recommend the Air Force as a career because compared to the other services it offers more stability which can be used to focus on personal development and taking care of family.

Additionally, the Air Force culture demands innovation and responsibility from the junior grades and allows young Airmen the opportunity to grow and quickly develop experience.

Finally, the Air Force is unique in that the specialties are all very diverse but still are able to come together to get the job done. That really helps prepare you for the civilian work force.

To an airman or lieutenant just starting out, I suggest that they dedicate the time and effort to truly learn their job and quickly become the subject matter experts in their fields. This not only opens doors for greater opportunities, but it also makes it much easier to overcome new challenges.

I would also recommend seeking out those extra-curricular and volunteer opportunities that they truly enjoy. You will create a much better product when you do what you genuinely like.

The biggest change I have witnessed in the Air Force throughout my career is the level of overall performance. From work related duties to off-duty activities, the bar has been constantly raised so competition for advancement is very high at all levels. This has created Airmen that are more capable than ever before.

(Editor’s note: Feliz retired from active duty during a ceremony held April 27 at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma.)