Commentary by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex
21st Space Wing Public Affairs Office
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — “Welcome to Peterson, you’re going to love it here! Do you have any questions?”
Well yes, actually, I have about a million. I’m brand new to the Air Force; so new you can probably still smell basic training radiating from my boots. So new I don’t know something as simple as how the dining facility works or where the commissary is, much less how to get my computer and email to work.
No one ever wants to be the new person, and I’m no different. Straight off the plane from a farm in good ol’ Wisconsin, I’ve landed at my first duty station in mountainous Colorado. I can already tell there will be plenty of hiking and outdoor recreational opportunities for me. About that, I’m super excited.
Everything else? Well, I haven’t got a clue how anything works. I’m like a tween on her first day of middle school, only hopefully slightly less awkward.
Upon getting my in-processing checklist of things to do, I was given a quick tour, shown where things were and met what seemed like a thousand people the first three days. Of course I forgot it all because, well, whose brain wouldn’t explode?
Good thing one of the many pieces of paper I received said First Term Airmen Center on it, because that course would be the one to help me meet people and learn how things work on an Air Force installation.
Staff Sgt. Alan Cruz, FTAC Team Lead with the 21st Force Support Squadron, told me the main purpose of FTAC is to help Airmen transition from the training environment of basic training and tech school to the operational Air Force and the new community we’ve been immersed in.
“Primarily it is to get acquainted with local agencies and local resources, such as public health, SAPR, whatever it may be,” he said. “Secondary is probably networking, having Airmen get to know other Airmen in different career fields.”
And he’s right. I don’t mind new places, but not having friends to get dinner with or someone to go to the gym with gets old.
Airman Johnathon Downs, Knowledge Operations Management with the 21st Communications Squadron, was another new Airman taking the course with me. When I asked him, he also said networking is a key part of FTAC.
“I think that’s one of the main purposes of FTAC — getting to know people so you’re not alone, you don’t feel alienated,” Downs said. “Because when you’re in the military and move around a lot, you meet friends and you lose friends and you have to gain friends again.”
The FTAC program recently changed from a nine day to a five day program. It was standardized across the Air Force to ensure Airmen were getting the most essential information and are mission ready as soon as possible.
Master Sgt. Walt McClung, Airmen and Family Readiness NCO in charge with the 21st FSS, spent a whole day with our FTAC class discussing resiliency, goals and problem solving, among other things. He said he enjoys working with new Airmen because you can affect the greatest amount of change.
“Even in this small room,” McClung said, “people have the strength and courage to discuss personal things. This will help them have meaningful relationships with their coworkers and increase their resiliency.”
After a week of briefings, I can tell you he’s right. We have to get those briefings because they’re essential to the everyday flow of how things work, however, I think creating lasting relationships with new Airmen as well as established professionals is the first step to success at any new place of employment.
So welcome to Peterson! Yes, I will love it here, thank you very much.