Two worlds, one Air Force

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Melissa K. Mekpongsatorn
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
For almost 10 years now, I have devoted my life to the Air Force. In 2002, I made the spontaneous decision to join the military. I didn't put much thought into it and still to this day, I cannot remember exactly what made me do it, but I did.

I didn't know anyone in the Air Force or anything about the Air Force when I joined. When the time came for me to choose a job, I chose aerospace ground equipment, better known as AGE, with a little bit of persuasion from the recruiters at the Military Entrance Processing Station.

Being AGE was not the worst job and at least I had a job, but it was definitely not the job for me. I didn't mind so much getting greasy and smelly every day, but when the grease and smell don't wash off, it gets old.

I would have to wear colored nail polish over my nails on the weekends just to cover up the black grease that wouldn't come out of my finger nails.

The hours were long and sometimes really, really cold and other times extremely hot. I spent countless hours in the sun and almost just as many in the rain. But after nine years of being a maintainer, I decided to cross-train.

I thought a new job would require less hours and work would not be as physically demanding. I needed a change and I wanted something that would interest me every day. I was accepted to cross-train after nine years as an AGE mechanic. After all those years in the grease and grime, I left and headed to the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md., to become a "DINFOS-trained killer," or Public Affairs specialist.

Cross-training was scary. I left my comfort zone and went into a career that was the complete opposite of what I was familiar with.

I was already a staff sergeant and going back to technical training school was interesting. I won't bore you with the details of tech school, but I made it through. And not only did I change careers, I also got to permanently change duty stations.

Coming to Moody, I didn't really have any expectations of what I thought things would be like because I had nothing to compare it to. So I went in with an open mind and tried to adapt the best I could. I learned that turning wrenches and writing stories have nothing in common, but the hours are at times just as long. And what I used to call the chair force, I have a new respect for.

I have now seen an entirely different side of the Air Force that as a maintainer, I would have never had the opportunity to see. I also now see that no matter the location of the job, we are all important to the operations in our Air Force.

I have had the chance to see two very different worlds in the Air Force and learned they are really a part of the same world. Because no matter if an Airman serves food or flies an aircraft, or if they work in an office or on the flight line, the job is important.

Most of all, I have learned that Public Affairs is just as vital to mission success. I am grateful for my experiences on the flight line. I learned a lot and made some great friends. Sometimes when this job becomes overwhelming, I imagine what it would be like if I was still an AGE ranger, but I must admit I am happy where the Air Force has taken me.