Military life is what you make of it

It is 11:30 p.m. on a Friday night at Incirlik Air Base Turkey. I have just received an e-mail informing me I have permanent change-of-station orders.

My wife cannot control her excitement. I am doing my best to hide my own. We decide to wait until Monday morning to learn our fate. After 10 minutes of anxiously sitting around our house the anticipation gets the better of us. We cannot wait; moments later, we are in our car on IMG_2660the way to my office.

We are like two impatient kids opening up their presents on Christmas eve. Where has the Air Force decided to send us? Hickam Air Force Base Hawaii? Lackland AFB, Texas? Aviano AB, Italy? My mind is doing somersaults thinking of all the possibilities.

We park the car and run to my computer. I open the orders and our new assignment crushes us like a lump of coal.

There will be no surfing in Hickam or fine Italian cuisine in Aviano; however, there will be an abundance of wind because we have orders to Cannon AFB.

As I inform those around me of my assignment, I start hearing the same advice over and over.

I tell them I am moving to Cannon, there is a moment of silence, and they give me a look that says, “I am so sorry.”

This is followed by the advice, “It’s all what you make of it.”

My Air Force career had reached a new peak at Incirlik. Two years as an Airman Leadership School (ALS) instructor, guest speaker for a graduation ceremony, and I had made the type of friends you can only make while living overseas.

Now I have orders to Cannon? Say it isn’t so; I don’t want to go.

While drowning in self-pity, I decided to perform some personal reflection. It turns out I had not wanted to move to Incirlik from Creech AFB, Nev. Why would I want to move to Turkey when I was having a magnificent time in Las Vegas?

I was a subject matter expert, lived a few hours from family, and I had made the kind of friends you can only make in a city that never sleeps.

Upon deeper reflection, I remembered not wanting to leave my first assignment at the Pentagon for Creech, or my home in St. Louis for Basic Military Training in Lackland.

But each move has improved my life both professionally and personally.

At Lackland, I learned how to be an airman. At the Pentagon, I met my best friend. At Creech, I fell in love with the woman who would become my wife. At Incirlik, I discovered my passion for developing airmen.

I can only dream of the great experiences awaiting me at Cannon.

Look back on your previous moves. How has your life improved? What new experiences have you gained? How many friends do you now have around the world?

In one of my final ALS classes, a student was complaining about his previous bases. I was shocked to find out his prior assignments were: Luke AFB, Arizona, Spangdahlem AB, Germany, and Kadena AB, Japan. In that moment I had an epiphany. A base does not determine your happiness; because you determine your happiness at a base.

Like I was told, “It’s all what you make of it.”

Kitsana R. Dounglomchan has proudly served in the United States Air Force for 11 years. Contact him at:


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