By Senior Airman Ruth Holcomb
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan - When I was 17 years old, I enlisted in the United States Air Force as a means to pay for college. What I did not realize at the time was how grateful I would be for all of the experiences that the Air Force has given me.
I remember the night I graduated from high school, coming home from dinner with my family and being so scared about my future. On a whim I had made the decision months before that I would join the Air Force, but as the date of my enlistment was fast approaching, I found myself doubting my career choice. Thankfully, my father and two brothers, who are all military men, convinced me that my enlistment was the right decision. I knew I was not ready for college, and I felt that if I went immediately after high school I would not be focused. I would only end up in debt with nothing to show for it. Therefore, joining the Air Force was truly the best option for me.
My career so far in the military has proved to be a very fortunate one. I went in "open general" and was assigned to be a military photographer. After learning a new and creative career field, I traveled halfway around the world to my first duty assignment, Osan Air Base, South Korea, which provided an amazing learning experience to finally be living on my own.
The friendships and bonds that I formed with people whom I knew in South Korea are probably some of the strongest I have ever had. Our uniting factor was that we were all alone, but we were all alone together.
After Osan I moved to Ramstein Air Base, Germany which is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever lived in. There is so much culture breathing through every village: from viewing the castle from my apartment balcony or stumbling upon a fortress while turning a corner in the country, it is truly awe-inspiring. But professionally neither place brought me the satisfaction I craved, I was still just a photographer, I didn't see any relevancy in my career field, I saw my career field as being fluff, not something that was truly needed.
It seems that often times when people join the military they do not realize the impact that they will be making on the world. How the people look at them in a different light, since they are out there day-in and day-out making a difference. As a young Airman I often times am embarrassed when my family and friends thank me for my service. I have trouble looking out from behind my camera and really seeing the day-to-day impact that I am making with my photos and my stories. "I'm just a photographer, I can't really be making an impact," is something that has slipped out of my mouth far too often in the past.
It wasn't until my first deployment to Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan when I photographed the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit returning home after a seven month deployment in Afghanistan. I wrote the story and published the photos of these brave men and women finally on their way home. I didn't think much of it until I stumbled onto a blog page that had my photos posted with comments from mothers, wives, husbands and siblings who were just then hearing about their loved ones on their way back and the excitement that came to them. That brought me to tears.
There are jobs in the military that directly impact the mission and then there are jobs that directly impact the heart. I don't know how to fix a plane, or to save anyone's life, but a picture truly says a thousand words. It lets family members know when their son or daughter is coming home, or if their child is still doing alright when they are not in a place that they can call home. Photos of moms and dads sent home to sons and daughters tells them to hold on for a little bit longer and they well be reunited soon. The military for me is about showing families what their loved one does. Showing them that they are doing something important and worthwhile, showing them that they are making a difference.
My job is to tell the story in a way that even the smallest reader can understand. Letting them know that their parent is working hard for them, protecting them and fighting for them and their future.
This work, Finding satisfaction and growing up in the Air Force, by TSgt Markus Maier, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.