Guest Post: Air Force

Brittany emailed me a month ago sharing her story about being in the Air Force. On the blog, I tend to focus on women and careers that are most like mine (bloggers and entrepreneurs and writers), but that’s only because it’s what I know. Obviously there are a million different types of careers out there. I’m so honored that Brittany agreed to share more about her own experiences with the Air Force! (She went to Tufts University and was active in Air Force ROTC.) She’s pretty incredible!

In 2012, the Air Force began the process of molding me from a skyward-gazing civilian with no flying experience into a qualified military pilot. That summer, I showed up bright-eyed and bushy tailed with a handful of equally naive lieutenants, complete with potential brewing on the horizon and absolutely no idea what to expect. Over the next year and a half, we studied, flew, celebrated, traveled, passed, failed, and changed together. I flew solo formation against new best friends and felt the kick of two engines lighting afterburner from the jet strapped to me. At the end of it all, they honored us with sets of hard-earned wings. I’m here to answer some basic questions about the job and give some insights into a small community within the military.

What is a day in the life like?
I can only speak from my experience in pilot training as opposed to what day to day life is like as an Air Force pilot, but here is what my past year and a half has looked like. We had relatively consistent 12-hour days that began as early or as late as the instructors deemed necessary. Each was a blend of morning briefings, academic classes, computer based academics, simulators, tests, flights, and debriefs. One day you may have academics and two flights, another you may be inside doing general knowledge study all day. While there is a high standard of professionalism throughout the program, these days weren’t full of the movie-style boot camp with yelling and push-ups. We had plenty of time to get to know fellow classmates, make fun of each other for stupid mistakes, and joke with instructors during down time. I found real military professionalism to be subtle; it was most pronounced in the mutual respect everyone had for each other and the expectation of a job well done.
What is this career path like?
You can become a commissioned officer one of three ways: go to the Air Force Academy for college, do ROTC while attending a normal college, or complete college and then attend Officer Training School. I went the ROTC route, and it was definitely the right fit for me. I had a standard college experience, joined a sorority for a while, had my summers to myself, and got to learn about leadership and being an officer over the course of four years. From there I competed for a pilot slot and got accepted to Euro-Nato Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT). ENJJPT has a unique multinational role; they have a blend of international students and instructors as well as a NATO steering committee that collaboratively determines the syllabus. Once you get to pilot training, you compete for which airframe you will fly for the Air Force. After you learn that, and with a little bit of luck, you get your wings. 
How many girls are there?
These are rough numbers based on my time here, but if there are at a given time ~200 students going through the program, about 3-6 of them are girls. Other pilot training bases tend to have more just because of larger student bodies. I never found that to be much of a consideration though. For the majority of pilot training, I was the only girl in a tight-knit class of twenty-four and never really noticed it as a point of concern. 
Issues unique to training?
There are lots of interesting issues unique to military life. For one, as a long-time follower of the College Prepster, it’s difficult to apply any of the tips because I’m in uniform all day every day! We have a bit of play in how to dress up the uniform, including hair style (but it must be worn back) and earrings (studs, usually diamond or pearl), but nothing quite like donning a well-designed dress and some power heels. I try to use weekends to explore fashion, but shopping on base is limited and there is a lot of relaxing in sweats after long weeks. 
Additionally, it’s difficult to find the time do the things you’re meant to spend your twenties doing: reading, traveling, cooking, trying new wines, and making new friends across the globe. When you’re working full time and just relaxing in the down time, it’s easy to neglect personal development. Luckily I’ve found a crew here who share similar interests, but it’s all compressed to Saturday evenings. I rest assured that there will be plenty of time for travel and the aforementioned interests later on, especially with such a diverse career.
Job review?
I can’t think of anything I would trade for my job; no sum of money or promise of fame can compete with the exhilaration and purpose I’ve found here. There is nothing like flying in close formation with three other jets, or flying against a classmate in two ship low level at 350 kts 500’ above the ground. There is nothing like realizing that you are training to actively defend your country and give back to the nation that has given you opportunities galore. The people I’ve met are without a doubt the highest caliber colleagues I could ask for. I’m not just saying this. As with anywhere, there is a sampling of people you could do without, but I’ve found it much lower than in other groups. Pilot training itself is difficult and was the longest year and a half of my life, complete with challenges and setbacks (broke my wrist halfway through!). It isn’t for everyone. I have had good friends from ROTC get to the initial phases of training and decide they didn’t want to do it anymore. For me however, it’s a dream come true.
Here is the 14-02 class video (my original class), which does an incredible job of summarizing the past year of training here. The intro takes a few seconds, but it’s worth the wait!
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Julia D.

I'd love to see more of these posts. Don't get me wrong hearing about people doing similar career paths to you is great, but we hear it from you when we ready your blog. These types of jobs and women aren't profiled enough and it would go a long way to showing your readers just how many life options exist.