By James L. Hodges
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
From the outside looking in, life in the Air Force can be a mystery. I’ve met many people in my personal and professional life who know nothing about the military, yet they make assumptions. They may make them because of media or movies; I don’t know why, but assumptions are often wrong. The most common assumption I hear is the Air Force is an authoritarian, conservative environment wanting to go to war. That’s not the Air Force I grew up in. The Air Force I grew up in was a culture of diverse people and thoughts who cared about their community and were always striving to make it better. That’s the Air Force I work for today and the one that made me who I am.
As a military child I grew up thinking it was normal to leave schools and change houses every year, just as I thought it was normal to have diversity in every neighborhood I lived. It was the world I lived in, what I understood, it’s what I did, what my friends and classmates did, and it’s who we were.
I grew up thinking, why make friends, I’ll just leave them in a year anyway. Don’t get attached to this house, we’ll be moving in a year anyway. And today I’m an introvert and a pack rat, some might say verging on hoarder, but I disagree, it’s how I adapted. Growing up as a military child I was skilled at saying goodbye to people and places. On the other hand, my brother, Matt, became an extrovert and got good at saying hello. He hit the ground running, he had to make friends and fast because he only had a year with them. We grew up with the same circumstances yet we are opposites, well not exact opposites, he’s a pack rat too.
This was our way of life until our dad retired and joined the civilian workforce. We moved off base and suddenly my world was smaller, whiter and full of people I didn’t understand and who didn’t understand the life I led as a military brat. It was two blocks to the corn field in one direction and five blocks to Main Street the next. I began to adapt, make friends and plant roots. This was my new community, I was beginning to belong. It was becoming my new norm.
Just when I thought the moving was over, surprisingly four years had gone by and it was time to move again, because civil service didn’t mean permanent, it only meant a slower crawl to more strangers and a different life.
I used to get jealous of the people who were born and raised in one town. When they go home for the holidays they go back to the house they lived in as a child. The place my parents live now is a house I have never lived in, but it still feels like home. The people I love and the things I grew up with are there. I used to think living in one place was the ideal, and somehow I was cheated out of it.
But then I realized what an amazing opportunity I was given as a military child. I’ve lived on the East and West coasts. I’ve lived in the north, the south and Texas (we all know Texas is its own thing). I’ve lived in the Midwest and I’ve lived in Germany. I’ve lived on base and off. I’ve lived in large cities and small towns. I’ve lived the nomad life, moving from place to place. And I’ve seen just how different and special each community is. Where you grow up says a lot about who you are. It instills in you your values and beliefs. As a military child I got to grow up everywhere. I got to be part of many worlds while being part of the Air Force community. The uniqueness to military life can be a challenge but it’s shown me what’s important in life, the people who are in it with you.
In this community I am currently enrolled in the Leadership Pikes Peak Signature Program class of 2017 (best class ever) and we’ve all been asked to present our “why?” Why do we do what we do? I work at Schriever Air Force Base because it’s my community; it’s my family. There’s always that one annoying cousin you constantly roll your eyes at during a family dinner but I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s family, am I right?
For the most part, my military family is respected but it’s often misunderstood. And that’s my job in Public Affairs. To share my community, my Schriever family, with those outside the gate. It’s not always easy, but my job is better than yours.