As we rapidly approach Blissdom, I thought I’d share some things about me that you might not know. I’ll take you back to the time that set the foundation for who I am today. Think back to the mid-’90s. Flannel, grunge, combat boots …
When I was 19, I joined the Air Force. It was a drastic decision, but a necessary one. I had an overbearing dad who refused to allow me to go off to college (my dream since I was probably two) so I did what any rational 18 year old would do: I got married. It was the fall after I graduated from high school and rather than go off to UT in Austin like I had planned, I was forced to go to community college. My dad said I was too “little” to go off to a big school like that. Being that I was fourth in my graduating class, aced my SAT’s and got accepted to UT as a freshman, I was devastated. Community college was embarrassing to me. But marrying into a trashtastic family? I was all over that one.
Ten months later, when I realized that was the WORST DECISION EVER, I filed for divorce and joined the Air Force. My reasons for signing up weren’t out of patriotism or a sense of service. No. I thought Air Force guys were hot. On my enlistment papers I even checked the Conscientious Objector box because I had no desire to kill people. My recruiter informed me that I wouldn’t be allowed to join the military if that was the case. That checked box was promptly scribbled over and initialed on those papers for all of eternity.
When it came time for me to choose my military career path, my (hot) recruiter informed me that my test scores were high enough to do any job I wanted. My goal: to leave the very next day and get the hell out of Dodge. Military placement comes in waves so in order to get a job, there has to be a slot available. To leave immediately, my employment choices were dental hygienist and space systems operator. Since other people’s mouths are gross and space is pretty cool that was an easy decision. (And now you know how I got involved in space.)
Back to the hot guys. Boy was I right about that. Except for the ones in basic training. We are all hideous in basic training (see pic to the left). To make matters worse, I took a friend’s advice and joined the Drum and Bugle Corps. I had played the trumpet in the sixth grade so naturally I qualified. Affectionately referred to as “Beat and Blow,” this was the reject flight. Think of “Stripes” meets “Private Benjamin” with some “Revenge of the Nerds” thrown in for good measure. But it got me out of doing any KP duty, lawn service, working in the dry cleaners or any of that other nasty labor business. We were the only flight that got to leave base during Basic Training. We played in parades all over the greater San Antonio area, spreading our mediocre military music to unsuspecting civilians within a 50 mile radius. Good times indeed.
From Basic I shipped out to Vandenburg, Air Force Base in California to learn how to run space. Or at least, learn how satellites operate. Vandenburg was cool, foggy, rampant with raccoons and relatively uneventful. I barely made it through my classes and got assigned to Falcon, Air Force Base in Colorado. Not too shabby for a first assignment. And they had hot guys there.
Ever the overachiever, I flunked out of my first course in training to operate Global Position Satellites (we call them GPS). Honestly, I had never failed anything in my life – except marriage obviously – and I was so embarrassed. But before it was all said and done, I passed my course, ruled the operations center, became an instructor and moved up to evaluating people for the position.
During the late ’90s, GPS was a huge deal. It had only been used for military applications (i.e. dropping accurate bombs and killing people), but it was enabled for public use while I was there. We were the golden children of U.S. Space Command. And the people, the cast of characters, wow. I can’t even begin to describe the people I got to know in that short time. The white guy that wanted to be Michael Jackson. The redneck from North Carolina that got hair plugs at 21. The sluts. The eccentric geniuses that ran the atomic clock (they OWNED time!). The hot lieutenants and captains that were forbidden fruit for lowly airmen like me.
We were all jokesters. We all cared about each other deeply. We were fiercely competitive, but would save each others’ lives if it came down it. If you’ve never spent time in an environment like that it’s hard to convey. Just watch an episode of MASH, it’s pretty accurate. We were young and smart and empowered with multi-billion dollar DOD assets. And we drank a lot.
During my three years at Falcon, I saved a satellite from losing Earth and got a medal, met Chuck, married Chuck in Vegas, got to be in a Discovery Channel movie about GPS, made friends that are like family and had the time of my life. And on the day I separated from the Air Force, they changed the name of the base to Schreiver. Guess the place wasn’t going to be the same without me.
When my enlistment came up in 1998, I desperately wanted to work at NASA. I emailed, faxed and mailed my resume to every NASA contractor in Houston that I could find at least 20 times each. When I finally got an offer, I think it was because they just wanted me to stop spamming them. And from there, my foray into manned spaceflight began. But we’ll save that for another time.
This is my longest post ever. I guess I felt I needed to get this off my chest – which is yet another post I’ll get to! LOL!