Explore your world, volunteer

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
When I end my Air Force career a few years from now and somebody asks me what I did for a living, I want to be able to say to people, "What didn't I do." 

I hope to see as many different parts of the Air Force as I am able to, and the only way that is going to happen is by constantly volunteering for new experiences. 

One of the first things I heard when I went to Basic Military Training in 1992 was to never volunteer for anything. I never have understood this mentality or its reasoning. 

I have always found volunteer opportunities are the purest form of "service before self." Stepping up and raising my hand has led to some of the most exciting, unusual or bizarre experiences of my career. I have certainly seen and done things I would never have imagined if I only followed my job description. 

I spent 14 years as a weapons loader before cross training into Public Affairs. While the job had many exciting and rewarding moments, I found one way to spice up my job was constantly volunteering to assist the mission in other ways. 

In one of my crazier moments, I had volunteered to become a security forces augmentee and I ended up training with a military working dog team. By training, I mean i volunteered to put on an incredibly hot and heavy bite suit. I then ran like a wounded dough-boy away from a pursuing Belgian Malinois named Spike. Spike hit me so hard I learned a whole new respect for the effectiveness of working dogs. It was also fun, and I had a story I could now tell when I got back to work. 

But I also found I didn't have to leave my work center to find unusual opportunities. When they towed our aircraft to the engine run facility, I would often volunteer to be a safety brake rider in the cockpit . This way, I could sit in the back seat of the F-15 as they performed the full power engine runs. It sure beat waiting at the shop for the jet to return so we could load it. 

Even the simple things were worth jumping at. Every time I heard somebody say "I need a volunteer." I would raise my hand. More than once, that was how my shift chief would pick whom he wanted to send home. Either way, you were up off your butt and getting the job done. 

As I became an NCO, I learned if you aren't the first up to do an unusual or unknown task, you are probably setting the wrong example. As a result, I did my best to instill the 'always volunteer' mentality into my Airmen. I hope it has served them as well as it has served me. 

Sometimes I would pull a ringer. Like the day I spent fighting a floor cleaner around a huge hanger floor as it belched greasy water onto my boots. Or the time I was asked to vacuum the hangar door tracks with a giant gas powered vacuum. 

That day was going great, until the zipper on the dust bag broke wide open. In a single second I was blasted with about 40 pounds of dead bugs, rusted metal powder and oily dust like something out of a cartoon. The job had to be done, and if my squadron ended the day with a clean hangar and a good laugh, I could call that a job well done. 

But overall, the good times easily outweigh the bad. I look at it this way. You are not avoiding your responsibilities; you are performing a vital, often one-time job necessary to mission accomplishment. 

If that isn't "service before self," I don't know what is.