Developmental Engineer & Planning and Programming Officer
Where did you see your career going when you were a cadet?
I thought that I would be doing more engineering work. I heard that we oversee contractors and the technical aspects of contracts but I had no clue how much of our job was involved in that.
Has it followed that path? How or how not?
I have had some opportunities to use my degree in electrical engineering to look at drawings and solve problems. I have had several opportunities to purchase different types of automatic test equipment and accept it for the Air Force. I find that I have a lot of opportunities to solve difficult problems. I went into engineering because I enjoyed solving problems. Even though I do not always solve engineering problems, I do use the problem solving skills that I developed in my engineering courses on a regular basis.
What is your job in the Air Force right now?
I am currently between jobs. I am moving to the pentagon in two weeks and will be working in the Air Force Comptroller's office.
What do you like most about it?
I will load data into the Air Force's budget database. The output from the database is briefed by the SECAF and CSAF to congress. I like that my job will make an impact.
What do you like least about it?
I don't know a lot about finances, so there will be some learning curve to figure it out.
What surprised me most about the Air Force?
Technical writing is the most important class I took at BYU. The writing in official documents is often terrible. Some people will pass anything to their boss for signature and some bosses will sign anything. Don't do either of those things. Pay attention to detail and improve packages as they come across your desk.
They don't grade my tests in the Air Force, they implement them. I got to help solve a QF-4 crash as a brand new second lieutenant. My recommendation to the mishap review board was accepted and implemented, costing over $1M and restoring the airworthiness of the QF-4s so they could return to flight. That was an amazing opportunity and taught me a lot.
At one point as a second lieutenant, I sat in a room with a lot of people with much more experience and education than me. They were talking about an issue and I figured that it was like college where the answer was so obvious that no one would answer. When I finally answered, I realized I was the only one in the room who knew the answer. They were talking about something I worked with every day, but was foreign to them. At that point, I realized that the Air Force paid for my degree because they expected me to think and to be a part of the solution.
What advice do you have for future/current cadets as they pursue careers in the military?
Focus on learning and honing your skills. Get as proficient as you can with what you are responsible for. People will look to you for answers and decisions. Credibility takes a long time to build and and an instant to destroy.
If you ever find yourself doing something just to check a box, take some time to reflect on why checking that box is important and what it is you are to learn while checking the box. Checking boxes isn't enough. You need to grow in depth and breadth. Take risks by seeking challenging assignments that will get you out of your comfort zone and groom you to be a better officer.
How did ROTC prepare you for your job now?
I got to see a lot of different leadership styles in ROTC. Some resonated with me, so I tried to adopt them. Others drove me crazy, so I vowed to never emulate them. I still do that today as I am exposed to new leadership styles. If you don't learn from everybody you work with, then you are doing something wrong.
In ROTC, the people are the mission. Sometimes, in the Air Force, we lose site of the importance of the people in pursuit of the mission. Achieving the mission is impossible without the people.
ROTC is a safe environment to take risks and try different leadership techniques. Take advantage of the opportunity.
Anything else you’d like to add?
This article was written about my deployment: http://www.kirtland.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123466725#.VpZ_UF0uVT0.face...