I joined the Air Force in 1984 right after high school and ended my career during the Air Force reduction of force in 1994. I celebrated my 19th birthday during basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. After basic training, I went through eight weeks of technical school training at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado for my inventory management position.
My first base was Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., known as “The Gateway to the Pacific,” and home of the C-5 Galaxy cargo plane, with the 60th Supply Squadron. Coming from Chicago to California, I was looking forward to fast cars and beaches, but was greeted by cows and an onion factory instead. On the bright side, I met my future wife of 34 years at the Travis Bowling Alley, and we now have a home in Vacaville, Calif., and three children.
While at Travis Air Force Base, I switched career fields to become a remote processing specialist, which would now be considered a computer operator. This was back when computers were huge, like the IBM 650. During that time, we constantly saw changes in technology. We switched from punch cards and card readers to using machines like the IBM 1050 that looked like today’s personal computer (PC) on steroids. We used rotating magnetic drum cartridges for storing and reading information as well as printing carbon paper reports to track everything a base had on hand at any given time. I saw floppy disks shrink from eight inches to three inches. It seemed like there were new changes every day.
My second station was Misawa Air Force Base in Japan, known as the “Tip of the Spear,” and home of the 35th Fighter Squadron and the F-16 fighter jets. During that time, we received our first tabletop PC, the ATT PC 6300. I had a lot of fun driving on the left-hand side of the road and learning about a different culture and language. I traveled to many different parts of Japan, including Tokyo, and encountered all kinds of conditions from earthquakes to snow.
Desert Shield began with Iraq invading Kuwait and later became Desert Storm. Around this time, I was given additional career field training for loading aircraft. I was deployed and flew in several supply drop missions over the desert from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. These missions included dropping food supplies to armored vehicles. My stay was 15 days and during that time I experienced a mixture of fear and excitement to be part of something. We were trained in gas masks and chemical gear because of the possibility of attacks from scud missiles with poisonous gas. There was never a dull moment.
The final base I was stationed at was Castle Air Force Base in Merced, Calif., home of the B-52 and the 93rd Bombardment Wing. During this time the military started downsizing. The government closed more than 100 bases and reduced the force by almost half. I was offered a bonus to leave or face the potential of being forced out of my primary career field because of these cuts. I took the bonus money and started my financial services career.
The military taught me how to be reliable, consistent, and meticulous about life and the importance of being a service to others. You had to think on your feet every day, juggling work, family, and day-to-day life. That experience ensured I’m prepared when things change at the last minute.
Banking and member service are dynamic fields that change daily. You must be able to adapt. I carry a lot of the mindset I developed in the military to stay alert and be flexible when needed. Having been a manager for years, I know how important it is to stay humble and remind myself to enjoy what you do. It is important to respect everyone since you never know when they will become your leader or you theirs.
When I joined the military, it was to be a service to my country, and the same goes for me in my role at SAFE Credit Union. We are here to support, serve, and educate our members to help them achieve their financial goals. This happens through teamwork, and the military is all about using teamwork and learning from one another to get the mission done.
In the military I worked with many people from different parts of the world, from New York to Texas, to Japan to Egypt. I experienced different foods, cultures, and perspectives. I learned from all my experiences by keeping an open mind. This is especially important during these unprecedented times. My credit union family and my own family are full of people of different cultures and backgrounds. My family is a mix of African American, white, and Asian ethnicities, and we all have different personalities, views, and opinions. Our members, too, come from many different cultures and backgrounds.
The military made me look at what I want to do in my life and SAFE Credit Union gives me that opportunity to make a difference in my life and the lives of others. I have been in service for over 38 years and am proud to have served both in the military and the credit union family.