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Commentary | Aug. 11, 2009

First-duty-station blues be gone

By Airman 1st Class Sylvia Olson 1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

At your first duty station and feeling overwhelmed? A lot of Airmen feel this way because their first year in the Air Force is filled with change. Lifestyle, dress, appearance, attitude and location changes begin the day they step off the bus at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

The transformation continues from basic military training to technical school and throughout an Airman's Air Force career. For me, settling into my first duty station here was when reality set in; I truly understood that I was far from home and an adult held accountable for her actions.

After the shock of BMT and technical school wore off, it took a bit of time for my mind to relax. For the third time in six months, I found myself in unfamiliar surroundings and around new faces. I had new rules to follow and a new chain of command with whom to familiarize.

Some of the things I'd been taught in the past became irrelevant, such as rolling my t-shirts and fretting about whether or not my bed was tightly made. On the other hand, professionalism and having a strong work ethic became more prevalent than ever.

My arrival to Langley felt like a breath of fresh air after living through the restrictions of BMT and technical school. It was refreshing to have my own dorm room in which to live, and free time to do what I wanted. I also wasn't used to non-commissioned officers treating me like a person -- the military training instructors snapped at me to drop and do push-ups and flutter kicks.

After a couple of months on station, I bought a car, made friends and learned the ins and outs of my career. I learned how my shop operated, what my supervisor expected of me, and began studying for my career development course exam.

Essentially, I transitioned into an Airman by taking all the challenges and changes I encountered and incorporating them into my life. I learned from my mistakes and the advice I received from others who had once been in my shoes.

Now, when a new Airman joins our squadron, I show them around base and answer their many questions. I understand from my own experience that settling into the first duty station can be intimidating and stressful.

I was able to combat my first-duty-station blues by always asking for help and trying to stay positive. Most importantly, I've learned it's vital to remember it takes time to adjust to new things, to make the most of it and to keep an open mind.