I should have joined the Air Force

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- In February of 2008, I was the executive officer at Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light FOUR ZERO (HSL-40) based out of Naval Station Mayport, Fla. One day, about mid-morning, my detailer called and offered me a command position at a "VT" squadron at Vance AFB in Oklahoma.

Once I heard VT, the Navy abbreviation for flight training squadron, I said "yes." Then I realized I had no idea where in Oklahoma Vance AFB was located. A few seconds on the Internet and I learned my next assignment was in Enid. I was definitely excited about the upcoming challenge of commanding a U.S. Air Force squadron.

After word spread through Navy channels about my assignment, I received a lot of calls from former shipmates congratulating me on command. Shipmates from some of my deployments called -- I have completed five long deployments of more than six months and eight short deployments.

They reminded me how we joked that we should have joined the Air Force, especially following long duty days, sleepless nights or "zero dark thirty" missions.

We joked about joining the Air Force because we believed Air Force members did not have to deploy as often, work long hours or have the additional burden of collateral duties. I had a lot to learn about the greatest Air Force in the world.

In the Navy, this tour at Vance is considered a "shore" duty assignment based on our standard "sea-shore" rotation. Typically, a shore duty assignment offers sailors an opportunity to spend more time at home and be less stressful than a sea assignment.

However, for instructor pilots, Vance is not a typical shore duty assignment. For them, 12-hour days are the norm. They fly weekends to complete student cross-country requirements and to recover the timeline in order to track select and graduate students on time.

Additionally, many spend their off-duty hours working on professional military education, advanced degrees and volunteering their time on and off base to stay competitive for promotion and school assignments.

As for deployments, I am pretty sure every organization on base has at least one Airman serving at the forward tip of the spear. In the 33rd Flying Training Squadron we had two officers return from 365-day deployments and one enlisted member return from a 120-day deployment last year. One officer is currently deployed on a 365-day deployment and another on a 120-day deployment. We have one more officer departing soon for a 179-day deployment.

Since my arrival in June 2008, I have been truly impressed with the men and women of the Air Force. My beliefs about the Air Force early in my career were not even close to being accurate.

As we head into 2010, I look forward to the continued challenge of commanding the best flying training squadron in both the Air Force and Navy, and leading the hardest working members of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

I ask that all members of the Vance community continue to serve with great pride and distinction and to find the proper work and home balance. I know it is not always easy with the demands of the Air Education and Training Command and career progression, but if it was easy it would not be rewarding.

With sea duty in my future, I will no doubt have to deal again with long duty days and sleepless nights. However, this time, instead of joking about how I should have joined the Air Force, I can now say with great honor, I commanded an Air Force Squadron and served with great Americans. Then I will say jokingly, "I should have joined the Coast Guard."