“You were in the military?”

When I mention that I’m a veteran, I usually get one of two responses: “What did you do?” or “You were in the military?” The last said with significant disbelief that it makes me laugh. A few savvy people will ask my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). When I respond that I was in the U.S. Air Force, they don’t get it. Well, it’s because MOS is U.S. Army and AFSC (Air Force Speciality Code) is U.S. Air Force. The same thing, but each wants its’ name. So, what was my AFSC? It changed a bit, so hold on and I’ll explain. I also can’t guarantee they haven’t changed since I left fifteen years ago.

I began my career in the Mississippi Air Guard as a 276X0. A year later, I enlisted in the active duty U.S. Air Force and my AFSC eventually changed to 1c5X1. It was the same job, but the AFSCs had just changed for some reason I can’t remember. What do I do? A “scope dope,” was the traditional term. I sat behind a radar screen identifying aircraft flying through our designated control airspace. Or, I stood behind a large plexiglass board plotting them out and writing backwards for all to see. Eventually I qualified as an Electronic Protection Technician (EPT) where I watched the scope for incoming missiles, which were a significant threat to a radar group.

At a point in my career, I attended the Air Weapons Director (AWD) school and became a 1c5x1D. In that specialization, I controlled aircraft during missions that included refueling, dropping bombs, identifying those aircraft the scope dope couldn’t (drug interdiction was big), and in preparation for, and in, real-time war. Yes, we controlled during dog fights like in Top Gun, except we helped our pilots. Some say, “Air Traffic Control?” It was actually the opposite of Air Traffic Control. They kept them apart, whereas we brought them together. My motto was, “I got to tell pilots where to go.” Well, it was funny at the time. Not to the pilots. Oh, my callsign was “She-She.” (This is not a picture of me. It is borrowed from a U.S. Air Force website)

awd

I was lucky enough to travel extensively, although in several countries I only knew the view our convoys passed and the fields we camped in—yes, I camped. Don’t ask me to do it now though. The thought of bugs crawling on me creeps me out. I did drive a large military truck with an equally large tow and did a pretty good job of it. I don’t know why I can’t park a regular car now. I will say I don’t miss needing a U.S. Army Hawk or Patriot unit (if they even still exist with those names) protecting me while I slept.

At the twelve-year mark, my now ex-husband and I had planned to settle in Utah. While stationed there, my enlistment had ended, so I left active duty and joined the Utah Air Guard for an officer billeted job—13B, Air Battle Manager (ABM). Actually, it was the same job as AWD, only with the extra rank and pay. What could I say? I was an adrenaline junkie and nothing gave you a rush like fighting it out in a 4 v 4, which was where I controlled four aircraft and another AWD or ABM controlled another four, and we fought it out in an aerial mission. I especially enjoyed when my pilots played the “bandits/hostiles” and we won the battle. Although that didn’t bode well for the good guys in the debrief….

Then, my career collapsed. I required surgery on my foot, so the U.S. Air Force operated, but it never healed correctly. Subsequently, I wasn’t able to run and meet the physical requirement of my commissioning class. And since I had to have it for the job, even though I was already qualified, we parted company, and I said goodbye to the career I loved, my dream of becoming an officer, and the camaraderie of friends I’ll remember for a lifetime.

Even though I didn’t get injured in a war zone, I am considered a disabled veteran. And, since it was the U.S. Air Force who made it impossible for me to continue with my military career, I accept it.

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