Deployment, week four.

I’m officially one month into my deployment.

Honestly, it’s not what I expected.  I imagined a much harsher environment, a heavier workload, and a more rigid military atmosphere.

As it is, the work is light, the weather is decent (not unlike what I see in mid-spring at home), and the professional level isn’t cranked through the roof like I was expecting.

As a 7-level crew chief(Skill level; you start 3 and work up to 12, odd numbers only), the majority if my work consists of walking around the aircraft after it lands and inspecting it to ensure that it is ready for another flight.  We call this a walkaround, not surprisingly.  Part of the walkaround is to inspect both the intake and exhaust section of the engines, making sure that there is no damage or fatigue that would pose a safety issue during operation. This has been the majority of my work while I’ve been here, and it doesn’t take very long, about 2 hours per shift, depending on how many aircraft I’m assigned to ‘catch’.

The rest of the shift is killing time; watching movies, playing cards, eating breakfast and lunch and the occasional workout session in the gym.  It’s actually a bit frustrating to do so little work.  The schedule does change to the point that we’re busy out of our minds and the stress level is insane, but right now it’s ridiculously slow.

Christmas came and went with few clues that it was actually there, save for the fact that the chow hall put on a nice spread that day.  Pot roast, turkey, and cake was the fare.  It was pretty well done, considering it was all made in a military cafeteria.  There were a number of events that were held, like a cardboard boat regatta in the swimming pool, relay races, ball games and so forth, but being on the night shift, I was either too tired to partake or already in bed while they were being held.

Care packages have absolutely flooded our workcenter; an entire pallet was delivered recently from an organization called Defenders of Freedom.  The boxes contained toiletries, greeting cards from their senders, and an inordinate amount of candies and snacks.  We are up to our eyeballs in cookies, candy and other items.  The cards were hung up on the walls, along with a large banner with all five armed services seals and hundreds of well wishes and signatures.  Some of them are professing love for the troops(one in particular was addressed ‘to all the hotties’), and I can’t help but wonder what their signers look like.  The break room looks pretty festive as a result.  I’ll miss it when someone decides it’s time for all the decorations to come down.

I turned 36 the other day, and I had to ponder what I’ve done with myself in life as I’ve reached the point that I’m closer to 40 than I am to 30.

I haven’t done half bad, but I can’t help but feel that I could have done better for myself.  It’ll be hard to be hired for any decent paying position past the age of 40 without a college degree, and I’ve got very few college credits.  Somehow in the next four years, I should do something to change that.  I really need to get the ball rolling on my airframe and powerplant certificates, and work toward getting at least an associate’s degree.  I’ve got the opportunity to go to school when I get back, but whenever I think of it, that old pit forms in my stomach – I can’t stand classroom environments, I’ve always been a horrible student, and I don’t want to spend years in  school with no clear-cut promise of any benefit.

It needs to be done.  I have to tackle this or I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering if things might have been different.  The same wall that I was staring at when I was debating going into the Air Force has presented itself, only this time, there’s no clear path to travel down, there’s no initial hurdle that prepares you for the rest, there’s simply a headlong dive into the seeming oblivion of academics.  Some sort of plan, some sort of roadmap, a manual of standards and how to survive the task would be a huge help.  I honestly have no idea where to begin or what options to choose, and I’m not sure if I’m going to like any of those options, either.  Every time I’ve talked to people about it, they want me to do it their way, they assume that I’m the same sort of student they were, that I will be able to approach things the same way they did.  I’m fairly certain that I have to use my own approach, and to do that, I have to figure out what on earth that is.

It just seems to be far too big of an obstacle to scale in order to get where I want to go.

For now, I’ve got a few months to think, to prepare, to sort my mind out before I’m thrown back home to reality: unemployment. I’m enjoying the fact that just about everything I need is provided free of charge right now, and for the moment, even my income is tax exempt.

This is the carrot that I’m dangling in front of myself, I envision myself in one of my best suits, behind the wheel, tooling along on a cross-country road trip without a care in the world, a good job feeding my wallet:

1937 Plymouth Business coupe

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