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    Traveling the World From One Base



    Story by Airman 1st Class Tia James 

    2D Audiovisual Squadron

    I never imagined the places I would go in such a short amount of time. From the warm nights I spent in California to watching the first snowfall of the year in Greenland, its been an adventure from the beginning.

    I joined the military to get out of my small hometown of Nashville, Michigan, to travel the world, and I was given the ultimate opportunity to do just that.

    First Year

    My first stop out of Michigan was to basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. I didn’t get to experience much of the state while attending BMT, but I remember the Texas heat. This was the first time I was going to be away from home for more than a couple weeks and I was so excited. Although I spent almost every day in full uniform and drenched in sweat from learning how to march in the heat, I loved it. I loved the morning workouts, the feeling when letters from home arrived and the fast friendships with the girls who were all going through the same experiences.

    When I left Texas, I went to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, for technical training. I had a new group of friends to spend the next six months with and we took every opportunity to explore new places. We spent weekends in Washington D.C. or Baltimore, trying new restaurants, visiting museums, seeing movies and continuously trying new hiking trails.

    I knew my first duty station was going to be somewhere exciting and far away from anywhere I had ever been. I logged into the Air Force Portal hoping to receive my orders every day at school, imagining myself packing my bags and moving to a new country. One afternoon, toward the end of October, I came back from lunch and my entire class was exploding with excitement.

    My friends were enthusiastic as they read off their orders to places like Italy and Germany. They called their families to share the exciting news, and some girls were crying of happiness.

    I sat quietly starring at the screen in front of me: Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

    I immediately started questioning if my orders could be changed or if anyone wanted to trade assignments. I wouldn’t even listen to my instructors when they tried telling me what a great assignment I had. It took me hours to pick up the phone and call my sister because I just didn’t want to say it out loud.

    First Duty Station

    While my friends were planning their flights to new countries to start their new jobs at public affairs offices, I was home packing my car to drive 22 hours alone to Utah.

    I was going to start my job at the 2d Audiovisual Squadron, which I knew nothing about. I really wanted one of my tech school friends to come with me so I knew I would have fun at my new job in a new state and wouldn’t have to start all over again by myself.

    I didn’t want to go to Utah. I wanted to go to one of the countries on my dream sheet that was far away. I joined the military to travel and now I would be spending my first enlistment only a two-day drive away from home.

    But… it didn’t take long to realize how lucky I was to get stationed at Hill. My new friends here, who had only been here a few months longer than me, started telling me about all the places they’ve already gone, the different missions they’ve been a part of and all the fun stuff there is to do here. I was immediately excited and had so many questions about the places we go and how often we’d travel.

    One of the first things on my in-processing checklist was get my official passport, which I would be using a lot sooner than I expected.

    Hill AFB

    In the short 11 months I’ve been at Hill, I’ve already been on five temporary duties, stayed in seven different states and spent three weeks in another country. I still have two more TDY’s on the calendar before the year is over.

    Ironically, my first TDY was back to Texas, where my time in the military began. My first TDY was spent at The Storytelling Workshop doing on-the-job training and meeting new people in my career field. After work, I was able to relax and beat them in a giant block stacking game, explore San Antonio, trying new food and get lost looking for an ice cream shop.

    Three weeks later, I went to Orlando, Florida, for the 2022 Public Affairs Worldwide Professional Development Conference. I was the only camera operator for a conference full of Air Force officers. I spent my evenings with my peers scoping out Florida, eating sushi and walking 30 minutes to a waffle restaurant I’d never tried before.

    Shortly after, I spent three weeks as the main camera operator in Washington for the International Military Women’s Soccer Tournament. It was amazing being on camera live and watching four soccer games each day from the top of the host box. It was almost as hot as BMT, but I did get to drink as much iced coffee as I wanted. My peers and I had our own little neighborhood of houses next to each other on base. After our long workdays, we would all sit outside together talking, playing games, getting to know each other and taking turns riding an electric scooter up and down the road.

    I’ve been on two airshow crews, where I helped broadcast the shows live to thousands of viewers and had a front-row seat to see the Thunderbirds, NASA aircraft, F-35A-s, a B-1B and many others while standing on top of a production truck with my camera for hours at a time.

    On one of my more recent TDY’s I visited the largest island in the world, Greenland. For two weeks, I captured footage and built a video database for the Space Force at Thule Air Base. This was my first time leaving the country and I was able to see the first snowfall of the year there, experience mud season, and try their local cuisine, almost, but not really, beat my supervisor in arcade basketball, saw the giant ice wall and mountains and watch all the little Artic foxes running around on base.

    I have two more TDY’s coming up before the year is over and another one on the schedule for February 2023.

    I came to Utah thinking I would be sitting at a desk every day and did not have high hopes for the job I would have here. Now, I’ve met the most important people in my life and I’ve traveled so much in a short period of time.

    My instructors at tech school were right when they told me how lucky I was to be given this assignment. I can confidently say I have traveled more in my first 11 months at Hill than some people will in their entire military career.

    I never imagined I would love my first duty station and so many people here as much as I do. My dreams of traveling came true in an unexpected way. I’m eagerly looking forward to all the places I’ll go while I am stationed at Hill AFB.



    Date Taken: 12.27.2022
    Date Posted: 12.27.2022 16:25
    Story ID: 435943
    Location: HILL AFB, UT, US

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