FEBRUARY 2, 2023 – Finding my career
When my husband and I first started dating in 2016, he asked me if I was going to be ok with the challenges that can happen in a military relationship. I remember feeling nervous and excited for our future.
I spent the next few years continuing to work on my education and starting a career in physical therapy until we moved to Ramstein Air Base. I put my career plan on hold while living overseas and found a full time job, but I still didn’t feel fulfilled by my work. In May 2021, I spoke with a U.S. Air Force recruiter about enlisting.
At the time, the only person I had told about a possible career in the Air Force was my husband. I had spent my life with my parents deciding on what path my life would go, so I needed to make this decision on my own. I had entertained the idea of enlisting years earlier and struggled to follow through. I thought I was letting people down by not continuing with the traditional college route even though I wasn’t happy.
I eventually told my family that I was enlisting and would most likely leave for training within the next few months. I initially didn’t get the support I had hoped for at the time, but my family eventually came around. After so much time researching, no career seemed more exciting than public affairs in the Air Force.
My first step
Although everything seemed to be falling into place, as a military spouse, I knew that something would most likely come up that could affect our plans. About a month away from when I would leave for basic training, my husband and I started to plan for what life would look like while I was gone for training. He planned on taking me to the recruiter’s office the morning I shipped out and being there for me when I swore in and finally went for my dream. Instead, he deployed 72 hours before I shipped out and we were unsure of when he would be home.
I finished packing the night before I left. The house was quiet, it was a unique feeling compared to any other time he had left. Typically, I would have our dog there to comfort me, but I had taken him to a friend’s house since we would both be gone. The next morning I went to the recruiter’s office alone, swore in, and took a shuttle to the Frankfurt Airport.
The next 24 hours seemed to last forever. I spent almost 12 hours flying to San Antonio, Texas, and boarded a white bus to Joint Base San Antonio. Everything seemed to be a blur after that. Training had begun and I always had my husband in the back of my mind, hoping he was ok. When I first heard his voice on the phone I cried. In a strange place, I was reminded of home.
Three weeks into training, I fell and hurt my knee. The medical personnel couldn’t determine what the injury was at the time. My knee swelled two times its size and I couldn’t put any weight on it. My dorm building didn’t have an elevator and I had to navigate crutches up to the third floor. Lucky me.
I was terrified that my knee wouldn’t heal by the time I had to take a physical training test in the fifth week. Medical personnel had recommended I go through a medical board, but I pushed through and completed my test two days after I stopped using my crutches. I was determined to make it to graduation.
Feeling at home again
It’s the seventh week, and I am standing at parade rest in the Pfingston Reception Center, waiting to reunite with my family. I try to look around, hoping to see a familiar face when I lock eyes with my husband. He walks towards me in his blues uniform and beret. I start to cry, but never move from parade rest. The second he tapped me out we embraced, and I felt at home again.
After spending six hours with my family, I had to say goodbye again. This time, for six months. I spent the rest of the night packing my bag to fly to Maryland for technical training.
Overcoming more obstacles, together
My time in Maryland was going well and I enjoyed learning about my new job. My husband called and let me know that he was going to airborne training soon. This was exciting news and something we had waited for some time. It seemed like we were both doing great; I had finally started training for the job I had dreamed of, and my husband was about to accomplish his goal of going to airborne school.
When my husband was preparing to enter jump week, he warned me that he wouldn’t be able to talk much, and I wouldn’t hear from him until the end of each day. His first jump day I patiently waited for some sign that his first jump went well. I was excited and nervous for him. He called me before I went to bed that night, but the news wasn’t what I hoped to hear. He broke his ankle on his first jump. It was so difficult to comfort him over the phone knowing I wouldn’t be able to help take care of him when he got home.
Towards the end of my technical training, my husband called me on a break and said he had a chance to go back through airborne training. After discussing our options, we ultimately decided it would be best if he tried at his dream again.
Another chance at his dream
Shortly after I returned to Ramstein following training, my husband found out that he would be going to training soon. I was nervous for him but was also still readjusting to being home after being away for eight months in a training environment. Once again, I’d be alone.
I told my husband to call me after his first jump back. The time difference didn’t matter. His success from his first jump continued and he earned his wings. I was so proud of him.
Having a front row seat to his success
When he came back to Ramstein, he was excited for his first operational jump. I always hoped I could see his first jump, and because of my job, I was lucky enough to get the chance to.
On Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, I watched my husband jump out of a C130-J Super Hercules with his team. It was so exciting to see him accomplish his goal.
Finding independence as a military spouse
My husband has always been an inspiration for me to chase after my dreams and to not let the hard stuff get in the way.
I am proud to support my spouse, and I am happy that he also supports me in what makes me happy.
Story by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn Oiler
86th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs