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First year on station: learn, work, lead

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Shannon Bowman
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

As a first term Airmen, arriving at my first duty station came with a sense of “what did I get myself into?” and “how do I find a way to fit-into supporting my office’s mission?”  

Fresh out of technical school and seeing the pace of daily operations around MacDill Air Force Base definitely had me feeling intimidated.  As the newest Airman in the public affairs office, seeing the work it took to document the mission of the 6th Air Refueling Wing and support the two combatant commands on base, I was determined to learn quickly so I would be able to help my colleagues.

So, I took an all-in approach. I volunteered to help with every project I could, dove into completing my upgrade training and career development courses, and offered to work solo in one of the DOD’s busiest photo studios, so that my fellow Airman could attend to more pressing tasks.

I pushed forward with this mindset, and my supervisors took notice, because I began being tasked with some of the coolest assignments that I could have imagined.  Before I knew it, it was March 26, 2020 and I realized that I had completed my first year on station.

Through the course of that year, I provided photo support to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, the commander of Air Mobility Command and the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  I flew on KC-135 Stratotankers and an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter to document several of MacDill’s flying missions.

To put it simply, I had been a part of several once-in-a-lifetime opportunities all in a matter of months, thanks to my chain of command’s recognition of my willingness to learn and work hard.  Though I felt that I was just doing my job and trying to be a good wingman, my supervisors saw my potential and that was truly rewarding.

My one year mark at MacDill culminated with a selection for Senior Airman Below-the-Zone. I am extremely proud of this accomplishment, but I honestly think of it as a team-effort. Without the help and training from my fellow Airman, the guidance and support from my supervisors and the demonstration of teamwork and professionalism from 6th ARW leadership, I couldn’t have reached that goal.

In one short year at MacDill, I’ve learned more than I would have ever imagined. If I could offer a piece of advice to new Airmen stepping into their first assignments here, I would say to be bold, and be willing to try even if you don’t know how.  Team MacDill wants nothing more than to see you succeed, and they will band together to do everything within their power to prepare you to be the next generation of Air Force leaders.