Retired from the Nebraska Air National Guard after 25 years of service
United States Air Force Retired, what does that feel like today? I woke up with the realization that something that has been a big part of my life for many years is now over. My military career began almost 4 decades ago as I looked for a way to pay for medical school. Though I have a few token weeks officially remaining, my career as an Air Force Officer is now over.
I still have a job, I’m a doctor and I teach family practice residents. It is full-time and is not a slack position. For the last 15 years, though, I have had another job. Its minimum requirements were 60 days of duty per year. Some years this exceeded 100 with a significant portion of them away from home and overseas.
Though I began in the 1970s I have actually only served 25 ½ years, some on active duty and some in the Air National Guard or Reserves. The last 15 years I have been a flight surgeon in the Nebraska Air National Guard.
So what does retired mean? I guess I don’t have to get a haircut in a few weeks. It was never supposed to be the “high and tight” variety but we were supposed to keep it short. It will take some getting used to.
I won’t have to wake up on Monday after a drill weekend (once a month) and try to juggle all the things that I need to accomplish for the Guard with my day-job. My focus can narrow a bit.
I won’t be in charge of the medical services provided by the medical professionals in our wing. We have nearly a thousand people to care for. We are an important cog in a very big wheel. Our wing provides fuel to planes all around the world. In addition we have many other missions to be a part of. I won’t be a part of that any more.
I won’t be gone from home 60 days, 12 weekends a year. I won’t have to come home and work on plans, charts, waivers. I won’t run out to the base to sign some document or have to call the National Guard Bureau to try to advocate for someone’s health related issues.
Not being a part of the mission means not going with the planes when they travel to a far off place. I have had some wonderful opportunities to do this. Iceland, Turkey, Crete, Spain, Guam, New Zealand and Antarctica were among the locations I had to go. I wasn’t a tourist, I had work to do. But I got to see those places and experience the culture and was paid to do it.
Of course it was the grim reality of war was the ultimate reason our planes were and are needed. That fuel goes to aircraft that have supported our troops, flown protective patrols over our nation, and helped put offensive aircraft where they needed to be to carry out that war. I would rather that we weren’t needed, that 9/11 had never happened and that the past 15 years could have been just a boring desk job.
As many who retire from the guard have said, “I’ll get my life back” but I will always carry in my heart a desire to be a part of that great organization, the United States Air Force. I has been great to be needed and I will keep those who take my place in my prayers as they go forward. We don’t know how the world will change in the next 15 years but I know that the Air Force will be there and the great people of the Air National Guard and the medical service will be right there in the midst of it all.by