JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
He asks the question. The person sitting across from him gives their final advice, which prompts frantic scribbling on a nondescript notepad; another snapshot of a service member’s frame of mind in their final uniformed days. This has been the modus operandi of U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Patrick Mulligan, 633rd Force Support Squadron retirements and separation technician.
Mulligan has collected pages of advice and thoughts from service members who he has helped retire and separate since arriving at Joint Base Langley-Eustis last year.
“When I first started it, I just passed my one year mark in the Air Force,” Mulligan said. “I was still kind of questioning if I made the right choice leaving college and enlisting. When I got moved to the retirement section, I wanted to try to understand what made people spend twenty-plus years of their lives in the military. I wanted to understand what drove them.”
Collecting the advice and getting to know those he’s working with has also helped inspire Mulligan to go above and beyond, making separating or retiring as streamlined as it can be.
Several pieces of advice talk about being supportive and the best you can be. Mulligan exemplified this earlier this year when helping a service member separate early due to a traumatic experience . He made frequent calls to the Air Force Personnel Center to request updates on the case. In the end, the service member sincerely thanked Mulligan for making their experience one of the better ones.
“To know that I made someone who could’ve been at their lowest feel safe is enough for me to know that I’ve found my purpose.” Mulligan said.
With JBLE as a first duty station, Mulligan found it challenging due to the high operational tempo and varied mission set. The 633d FSS performs a wide array of supporting functions, from retirements and separations to directly supporting rapid deployments. Despite these challenges, Mulligan’s dedication and positive attitude has earned him a fair amount of challenge coins in his short time on station.
“I don’t think most of them come in expecting to be asked if they have any advice, especially when they’re minutes away from driving out of the gates for the last time in uniform,” Mulligan said. “I do it so they know that, even at the end of their career, they helped one more Airman.”