Commentary: Old dogs can learn new tricks

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kate Bragg
  • 307th Bomb Wing

Most would not consider 33 to be old, but in terms of heading off to basic military training it doesn’t make a person a spring chicken either.

Most people were taken aback that I was volunteering to leave my family and job for an extended amount of time to join the Air Force Reserves.

There are many different reasons people join the military: education, travel, to serve their country, to start a career, or family tradition. The list goes on and on.

But why would a soon to be 33-year-old with a family and career want to join the military?

I have always felt like I had this hole missing in my life. I have always wanted to serve my country.

There was also family tradition. My father served in the Air Force during the Vietnam era and he was stationed at Minot Air Force Base.

After graduating from college and becoming a teacher and coach in Texas, I figured my boat had already left the dock and my dream of joining the military right along with it.

In the summer of 2019, my friends and I had just crossed the finish line at a mud run in Nacogdoches, Texas when we were approached by some young adults wearing Army recruiting t-shirts.

They asked us how old we were and the friends I was with jokingly replied that they were way too old for the Army.

“You can be up to 35!” they excitedly responded back.

My friends laughed and said, “Still, way too old.”

I wasn’t too old, though. I had no idea you could still enlist in your 30s.

When I got home, I searched the Internet for more information and stumbled upon the Air Force Reserve website. There were so many benefits that would help my family.

In my opinion it was a no-brainer.

I looked at all the requirements to join and I could check every box. This was it I thought. My chance to serve.

My older sister had always talked about how she regretted never serving her country in a military capacity. I didn’t want to live with those same regrets and my window of opportunity was getting smaller.

I talked to my husband about the logistics of it all and we decided it was doable.

Later that summer, I filled out the online questionnaire and had a phone call with an advisor to make sure I was eligible and then received my recruiter’s information.

It all seemed to happen so fast.

I got in with my recruiter, had my paperwork turned in, went to the Military Entrance Processing Station and by December 30th, I had sworn in and signed my contract to be a photojournalist for the U.S Air Force Reserve.

The decision to go in as a photojournalist was a tough one. I was an “auto” photographer. I knew basically nothing about photography, graphic design, or public affairs and the technical training was more than 100 days long.

That meant I would be leaving my husband and 18-month-old daughter for almost 8 months. I would miss some pretty big milestones in her life. The decision was hard, but my husband and I both knew that what I would learn with photojournalism could be extremely helpful in the civilian world.

I started running to prepare for BMT. I did CrossFit on a regular basis so the strength workouts didn’t scare me, but I was not a fan of running. I needed to get out that mindset real quick.

The Couch to 5k app became my running coach and helped me get to down to a comfortable time.

As my ship day arrived I felt that I was ready physically and mentally.

I said good byes to my family and got on a plane that would start my adventure into the wild blue yonder.

It was definitely challenging at times.

I missed my hugs from my baby girl and her 2nd birthday. During BMT I was put into isolated quarantine for being the only person in the squadron to test positive for COVID-19. After graduating BMT I was put in a college atmosphere that I hadn’t been in for over 10 years and never thought I would see again, on top of that, learning via Google Classroom was not ideal.

Still, I grew and I learned new things.

Sometimes I think we consider growing to be a thing we do when we are young and immature, but in truth we are never too old to grow and sometimes you grow in areas you didn’t realize needed some attention.

I have now been part of the Air Force Reserve family for over a year and I have learned so much not only about the Air Force, public affairs, photography, graphic design, and social media, but also about myself.

I have learned that with resiliency anything is possible and yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.