Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Path

When I was sixteen...if you'd ask what occupation I wanted to be....there would have been this funny look on my face. Basically....I had no real vision or idea about life about eighteen. I look back and I was basically viewing life as one day at a time, with no plan or map.

At eighteen....it was simply the Air Force recruiter at career day at the county high school day....that gave me this tidbit of inspiration and I took the 20-page pamphlet and gazed upon my "future".

As I sat at the recruitment station in Nashville....finished with the physical and the paperwork....here was the next to last station to stop at....the point where the guy had the computer and was sliding your name by a Air Force occupation. I had done alot of planning....but hardly a moment was spent on this job business.

The recruiter guy wasn't in a hurry but this was one of those odd moments in life where you should have been prepared and I wasn't. So he asked three brief questions....do I enjoy fixing things? No.....not that much. Did I enjoy doing paperwork? No....not that much. Finally....did I enjoy working outside? Yeah....so he pulls up civil engineering jobs and points out the pavements construction field. He mentions heavy equipment, pavement, asphalt, concrete.....and then I'm sold.

It was a lousy moment in decision making but for a kid with no real plan....it was better than nothing.

So I went off to Basic, and then onto Sheppard AFB.....and they laid out the construction field. In eight brief weeks.....they taught me enough to put on a 5x8 card....honestly.

I went off to Germany and then spent two years in a laughable situation. I spent one whole year....mowing grass and trimming bushes. In the second year.....I mixed concrete and did sidewalks. There was a bit of jackhammer work....and three or four jobs with asphalt. The snow removal situation was the only bright spot but that ended when the salt spreader broke one night and I had to shovel salt from the back of a truck in freezing weather.

By the time I got to Tacoma, Washington for my next assignment....I was already thinking....this was the wrong occupation for me. I spent three months that summer of 80....pour tar on cracks along base roads. I decided that was enough. That fall....I asked to cross-train and did my research.

I ended up choosing intelligence. Don't ask why. If they'd spoken up about giving presentations or briefings....I would have realized that this was a mistake.

So roughly four years after I joined....I was in the intelligence field. For better or worse, it was the best decision I probably could have made. For thirty years, I've been around the field and done a hundred different things which were interesting in nature.

It would have been interesting if the high school counselor had actually come around in the tenth grade and done a one-on-one hour with me and made me think ahead. I might have gone onto university at 18. But that didn't happen.

I can't complain.....and I probably should be somewhat happen with the way things turned out. The curious thing would have been the what-if situation....had I stayed in civil engineering in 1980 and never left. There were so few of those guys with associate degrees or common sense.

I remember the Chief that we had at the squadron....was one of the few Chiefs in civil engineering with a bachelor's degree. This was a big deal and brought up on several occasions. If you walked around the entire squadron.....less than five enlisted guys had two-year degrees. At the rate I was going....I would have had my bachelor's degree by 1984 and probably paved my path for quick promotion for years to come.

So this is one of those moments of the year when I pause and reflect. I've made it down this trail and done fairly well. I should be happy. But for some reason....I reflect and question choices. I can't seem to get past that point.