Trading my Eagle, Globe and Anchor to be an Airman

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kentavist P. Brackin
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
It seems like it was only yesterday... I was running around shouting semper fi's, oorah's and good morning devil dog with my fellow Marines, only to depart into the wild blue yonder.

I had the potential to start out like many Airmen. The Air Force was actually one of the first military branches I considered joining while in high school. I spoke to an Air Force recruiter and picked my job, combat camera.

However, long waiting periods, multiple trips to the military entrance processing station and continuous questioning about being physically capable, despite my numerous years as a high school track athlete, caused me to turn to a more accepting branch at the time: the Marines.

Within a month of speaking to a Marine recruiter, I was physically cleared to join. I had my job set as a photojournalist and boot camp was only four months away.

At the end of my enlistment, I faced a very tough decision. There was no room for me to re-enlist in my career field, so I had two options. I could either continue my career as a photojournalist by entering another service or I could retrain into another career field and remain in the Corps.

I chose the Air Force because my fellow Marines recommended it. They told me the Air Force has a higher standard of living than the other services and Air Force photojournalists are considered the most knowledgeable in the Department of Defense. There's also the fact that it was my original choice, so it seemed like I was being pushed back onto the beaten path.

Joining the Air Force took a lot longer than I thought it would. I called a recruiter to see what I needed to do to ease the transition. He explained he couldn't help me much until I was completely separated from the Marines. So, I visited a local Air Force recruiter as soon as I separated.

Between having to verify my eligibility for Air Force service, re-taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and waiting for a job-opening, it took nearly a year to get back into the military -- exactly like the first time I tried to get into the Air Force. It felt like déjà vu all over again.

During my one year break in service, I tried to find a job related to photojournalism.
Unfortunately, everyplace said I was short a degree, work experience or both. So, I spent the majority of my time working the night shift as a food packaging plant worker. During the day, I worked toward my Bachelor's degree in graphic design.

My transition hasn't exactly been smooth. The time out of the military helped me realize I needed to strengthen my resume as a photographer and writer. This way I can be better prepared for civilian life the next time I get out, which is hopefully many years from now.

Being an Airman is definitely different from being a Marine.

After joining the Air Force, I quickly noticed just how opinionated Airmen can be. In the Marines, sergeants always told me to keep my opinions to myself.

The rank structure is also different. As an E-4 in the Marine Corps, I was an NCO charged with leading those under me. There were times in the Marines when I felt like a babysitter; I knew if I didn't check on my "kids" something was liable to get broken. As an E-4 in the Air Force, such a responsibility would not fall on my shoulders until I earn more rank.

The quality of life in the Air Force is definitely higher than in the Marines. From the time I entered the Marine Corps until the very last day of my enlistment, I never lived by myself. In contrast, my first residence in the Air Force was a decent-sized apartment less than a mile from the beach.

So far, I don't have any major regrets about transferring services. There are those days where I miss the 'e sprit de corps' of the Marines, but I work on a special operations base, so even though it not as apparent, I never have to look far.

No matter what happens or where I go, I will always be a proud Marine at heart, just in a different uniform... Oorah!