As I stood, sweating outside the Military Enlistment Processing Station on a hot day June 24, 2010, I knew I had made a very important and life changing decision; the decision to join the United States Air Force.
I joined the Air Force to attend school, travel, and grow as an individual. I left for Basic Military Training on the cold winter morning of December 27, 2010. At BMT, I became the Tactical Deployment Leader during our simulated deployment training, which was the first time I was placed in a leadership role of that magnitude. I never gave up, even as Military Training Instructors were screaming in my face and telling me that I would I fail.
On Feb. 28, 2011, I experienced one of the most memorable accomplishments in my life: being in my Air Force service dress uniform and graduating BMT. At that moment, I was looking forward to a promising career as a broadcast journalist.
Upon BMT graduation, I attended technical training school at Fort George G. Meade, Md., where I was surrounded by many great individuals. I met, several lifelong friends and had unforgettable experiences in Baltimore and Washington D.C. After graduating, I received orders to Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., where I was the only broadcaster at the installation, which caused me to learn quickly through on-the-job-training.
I was afforded opportunities to venture beyond Shaw to receive training at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., where I sat in on webinars, conference calls, and online video training from Poynter University. I was fortunate enough to attend a 40-hour National Press Photography Association seminar as well in San Antonio, Texas, which gave me skills to network on a global scale.
While assigned to Shaw I was coined six times, received 10 letters of appreciation and was Airman of the Quarter within my flight.
My career ending mistake occurred in early spring, while hanging out with a friend and fellow Airman. I was working on my vehicle when I started to feel sleepy because it was so late. My wingman offered me his pills to help me stay awake and focus. Being away from family, friends, and in an unfamiliar environment at the age of 19, it was very easy to stray away from my morals and sacrifice personal judgment. I thought of it as harmless especially because I wasn’t on base.
After taking the pills my coordination and concentration spiked, allowing me to stay up for the remainder of the evening to complete the work on my vehicle.
A few weeks went by and we were cleaning his garage when again, my wingman offered me his medication to help me focus on the task at hand. After finishing the work in the garage, we went back inside to play video games. During the following weeks, I didn’t really think about it again.
On Oct. 11, 2012, several months later, I found myself in the very service dress uniform that I had once been so proud of. It was then that I experienced yet another life changing moment. However, there was nothing accomplishing about standing in front of my commander as she read her recommendation for discharge from the Air Force.
As I stood at attention, I realized that my career was severely short-lived because I chose to make poor decisions.
As a result, I was required to perform extra duties, was restricted to base and lost a stripe along with my dignity.
I called my mom and told her that I’d made a mistake that cost me my career. I then had to tell her that I had to move back home, which was not easy.
My actions didn’t just impact me, they negatively affected my unit as well. Due to my reckless disregard for the Uniform Code of Military Justice, my discharge has caused low morale in my squadron and strained my wingmen, who now have to pick up my extra duties and responsibilities.
In addition, knowing that I disappointed senior leadership was a lot to deal with. I was one of the most responsible and respected troops in my unit, and what I did erased all the credibility I had worked so hard to attain.
Temptation is all around us and it presents itself in different ways. The choices and decisions we make today, directly affect our futures. Just because you didn’t get caught in the act does not mean it won’t come back up later.
Please don’t get caught up as I have, because life on the other side of the gate is not promising. Make smart decisions and go with your gut feeling when in doubt, because a bad choice will land you in hot water. A couple hours of fun aren’t worth a permanent discharge.