Posted in Education BlogOctober 10, 2012
Like many who choose the enlisted military, I come from a small town life – though not that small of a town. I was raised in a trailer park on the outskirts of Tallahassee, Fla., in the typical single parent broken home we’ve come to love in America. I had a father who hit and verbally abused me; a mother who barely graduated high school and a stepfather who was a high school dropout. The only way of out of Tallahassee after high school was joining the military – well, it was that or stay at home and work for my stepfather’s HVAC company – so I joined the U.S. Air Force.
Actually, that’s not the whole story: originally, I signed up for the Army Reserve because they promised me a $40,000 signing bonus to be an MP, but after hearing all of the horror stories from friends (and other Army MPs), I went to the recruiter to ask to be released on an account of “APATHY”. It was only then that I signed up for the Air Force.
And then came 9/11
Sept. 4, 2001, was my first day at basic training – seven days before everyone’s lives were changed forever. I try not to look back on it that dramatically, but at the time it was terrifying. Our instructor assured us the Air Force was not going to waste money training us to be mechanics or financial advisors or services personnel; rather, that we were going to have three weeks’ weapons training before being shipped off to war. He told us since we’re not skilled at anything, we’re expendable.
I never got those three weeks weapons training. I never went to the front lines either. I did, however, learn how to work on the KC-10 Extender and soon became really excited to do something I never knew existed before my fifth week in Basic Military Training.
Holding a wolf by the ears
I moved to Travis Air Force Base, outside of San Francisco, and began a great career as an Aerospace Maintenance Engineer. After three years there I moved to Kadena Air Base, Japan, where I started to realize the College Dream was slipping away the older I got and the more embedded in the Air Force I became. There was a thought that the Air Force was the like holding a wolf by the ears (Latin: auribus tenere lupum) – it sucked but there was no way in hell I was letting go. Nevertheless, I really wanted to go to college and do something with my life BIG…I didn’t quite know what that something was, but college seemed like the key to that goal.
So I got off active duty, joined the Reserve, went to the University of Florida (and several other smaller colleges) and traveled the world. I couldn’t have done most of this without the MGIB – it’s the greatest investment I’ve ever made. To tell you the truth, I’m still waiting on the catch seven years later.
Making it on the GI Bill
Someone at my first active duty station once told a good friend of mine, “If you ever get out of the Air Force you’re going to be flipping burgers back in your home town.” And without skipping a beat, my friend said, “I’ll be the best d#%$ burger flipper in the town.” Ricky Heckerson doesn’t flip burgers. He graduated from the University of Florida with a finance degree, married his college sweetheart and today works for a large international communications company. He made it on the GI Bill and so did I…and so can you.
Currently, I’m working at the University of Florida’s Health Science Center Library (HSCL) as an IT specialist. I’m also back in school for an IT Networking degree at Santa Fe College – which is turning out to be a formality since I’m being trained a lot faster at my job than in the classroom. I was hired because of my drive to learn and my abilities as a leader (something I learned from my training in the USAF).
Cecil Guy is a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Crew Chief veteran, who currently serves in the Air Force Reserves at Patrick Air Force Base. Cecil also works at the Health Science Center Library at the University of Florida as an IT Specialist. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Classics from the University of Florida and is now earning his second degree in Information Technology at Santa Fe College. In his free time he enjoys running, triathlons and marathons, traveling, and spending time with his girlfriend Jessica, and their dog, Lily.