Your Air Force career is what you make of it

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Ordena Willis Jr.
  • 62nd Aerial Port Squadron
Years ago when I joined the Air Force, I was just looking for a way out so that I would not become one of the societal statistics. Right after graduating high school, I went to the recruiter's office and asked for a "job" that would get me around airplanes and he said, "I have the perfect job for you; it is air transportation." The only question I responded with was, "Would I be around airplanes?" and the answer was yes. Little did I know that this was the start of my profession in the Air Force.

I must admit that nothing could have prepared me for basic training, technical school or my first duty station. This unknown journey was a brand new experience that started molding me into the person I am today. I can truly say that I was blessed with phenomenal leaders, supervisors and mentors; with their advice, and a few boots in the butt, my career in the Air Force began to take shape. I was one of those late bloomers who just wanted to do a good job and stay away from the "in" crowd...I was a bit of a loner. From my very first duty station to my current one, I have always been able to gleam lessons in leadership, humility, as well as given many opportunities to shine.

To be honest, my goal was to make master sergeant, hit 20 years and get out. My thought was that after 20 years, I'd be receiving 50 percent of my pay because retirement guaranteed that. Even with that mindset, I kept myself promotable because I never wanted to burn any bridges. Once I got to 16 years of service, a sense of giving back kicked in and I wanted to be there for the younger generation because someone was always there for me. This began the shift in my career goals and aspirations. I now wanted to serve longer and make a real difference. I felt that attaining more rank would provide me with the platform needed to make real changes at work and in the lives of young Airmen and their was not about me anymore.

My life took on a new meaning and I started to believe that I could make a difference. The Air Force provided me with every opportunity to grow as an individual and as a leader. Today, I am part of the top one percent of the enlisted corps in today's premier Air Force giving back. I know that it is by the grace of God and prayers of my family and friends that I have gotten this far. I am thoroughly convinced that if I, a person of true humble beginnings, can make it to this level that anyone who puts forth the effort can take his or her career to insurmountable heights.

I'm not saying that every enlisted person has to become a chief master sergeant or every officer has to become a general in order to be considered a success. Success is measured by the person's abilities and desires to accomplish the goals they set. Successful individuals often have failed at something but they kept moving forward...that's what made them a success. The sky is the limit for a person seeking a successful Air Force career. All it takes is staying competitive and doing your best at whatever job or task given. Each job or task is an opportunity to prove that you are ready for the next level of responsibility. Just take the word of a 20-year veteran who did not allow societal statistics dictate his future.