Senior Airman building block behind child development centers

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michelle Vickers
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Donning an airman battle uniform and the signature red cap of a RED HORSE Airman, a somewhat familiar service member approaches the sliding glass doors of the Child Development Center East. The ladies behind the desk crane their necks to discern who this Airman may be.

As she approaches through the lobby, a flash of recognition hits their faces as they realize this is not only an Airman, but their ever-smiling co-worker and director of the CDCs, Nancy Adams.

For many of her co-workers, this is the first time they are getting a glimpse of Senior Airman Adams in her new role as a reservist.

"I think the hardest thing for them is now the flight has about 150 people, so I'm responsible for 150 people," Adams said. "Then I'm a senior airman in the Reserve side. They usually ask me, 'well, how do you do it?"'

Adams' enlistment has placed her in the position of being an Airman serving her fellow Airmen who entrust her and her staff with taking care of their children. Joining the Reserve in July 2011 was a logical choice according to Adams who seeks new ways to push her personal limitations.

"I'm always looking for things that will challenge me," Adams said.

As a reservist, Adams serves as an education and training technician for the 556th RED HORSE squadron. While RED HORSE stands for Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers, Adams' job is responsible for tracking any training that has a due date within the squadron.

"It actually works out well because with the training that we have to oversee on the CDC side, it goes hand-in-hand with the education and training portion that I do for RED HORSE," Adams said. "It's fun to see how the two relate. I get good ideas from both about how to make both aspects more efficient or timely."

A wearer of many hats, Adams is also currently tasked as the Airman and Family Services flight chief. For some of Adams' co-workers, it is difficult for them to picture her as a senior airman taking orders from her superiors.

While Adams can see the irony of the situation, she said she's capable of being just as effective a follower as she is a leader.

"I love knowing that I'm going over there and other people are going to tell me what they think is important, and I don't have to [be in charge]," Adams said. They keep wondering how long that's going to last, because I like to take control of things."

Adams is no stranger to working her way up through the ranks by starting at the bottom. She started out as an entry-level child-care giver and worked up to her current position as director. Though she first got her job as a child-care giver just seeking some extra income for her family, Adams quickly realized working with children was her calling.

"By day three, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up," Adams said.

Now as CDC director, Adams fulfills a broader role and has to be versed in all areas of the CDC's operations.

"You fill in wherever you're needed, and you oversee everything else," Adams said. "Stateside staffing is much more stable, but overseas there was one day we had a vacant cook position. The cook we had called out sick, so I was cooking and covering the desk."

In addition to serving as a short-notice, short-order cook, Adams also finds herself performing building maintenance duties when the need arises. Her former Air Force specialty code from her days as an active-duty service member better equipped Adams to troubleshoot these issues.

"I was an aerospace ground equipment mechanic," Adams said. "Let me tell you it's great prerequisite skills for being a CDC director because I can do plumbing, [heating, ventilating and air-conditioning]."

Though Adams can roll up her sleeves, her favorite part of her job is the daily interactions she has with children and their parents. Whether she is dropping in to read a story or answering parents' questions, Adams prides herself on being present enough that many of the children know her by name.

A self-described workaholic, Adams said she has not taken a sick day from the CDC since 2002. The lack of days off is not due to an exceptional immune system though, but to an enjoyment for her job.

"I like knowing that I am bettering a child's world, having that impact whether its small parent education opportunities or seeing a caregiver get it," Adams said. "I'm an educator by trade and just having those teachable moments with parents, staff, children -- I would do it for free."

For military parents, Adams finds the proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is especially appropriate. She enjoys providing an element of that support for parents who may be called away for frequent deployments.

"Being a military member and having children is stressful," Adams said. "We have a number of RED HORSE active-duty members, and they're gone six to eight months, then home four to six. There are a lot of other career fields that also deploy regularly, so being that consistency for the children is fun, too."

And with Adams behind the reins of the CDC, parents can expect to see both a civilian educator and an Airman serving as a building block for their children's wellbeing.  

"You know you love your job when you're there that much," Adams said. "There has been a couple of times my husband was downright rude and said you should not be going to work today, but it's a labor of love. It's not even a labor, it's a love. It's a passion."