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Joint service experience molds young Airman

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, BILOXI, MISS. -- Since my first day of technical school, I have loved working in a joint service environment. 

My tech school had students from every single branch of service. Training in a joint environment was a very positive thing which molded me into a better Airman. I was able to see the pros and cons to each service, and tried my best to incorporate all the positives into my conduct so that I could be the very best troop possible. 

I told my first supervisor that deploying was something I wanted to do. When I was given the opportunity to deploy, I didn't think twice. But when I was actually tasked to deploy, I thought to myself, "Dang, this is the real deal." It's no more talk; time to back my words up with action. 

I wouldn't be working at an air base with Air Force members, but instead, I was tasked to work for the Multi-National Corps-Iraq's Joint Operations Center in Baghdad, Iraq. 

Soon I was working in a huge stadium-shaped room with dozens of people, with just 10 percent Air Force. I worried about how people would perceive me. I wanted to do my service proud and to show that the Air Force isn't made up of a bunch of slackers who do physical training once or twice a month and call each other by their first names, but rather a service whose troops are motivated and dedicated to the mission and whose PT standards aren't something to take lightly. 

During my deployment, I served with Ft. Bragg's 18th Airborne Corps, whose motto is "Airborne ... All the way." 

That got me thinking -- since just about every service and almost every unit in the Army have their own mottos, I found myself saying things I hadn't said since basic training. I started saying, "Air Power." It was something a lot of the Airmen would sound off to each other -- and why not? We were just as proud to be Airmen as a Soldier was to be in the Army. 

With the help of a few good NCOs, officers and a chief back home, I learned to adapt to the different way things were done, and I learned that every obstacle is just another opportunity to learn. As I continually adapted, overcame and put out quality guidance and documents, the more respect I got from among all the different service folks in the JOC. 

By the time my tour was over, I had been coined on behalf of the MNC-I commanding general, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, as the Warrior of the Week. I also received a joint service achievement medal and the respect of NCOs, senior NCOs and officers with whom I worked. 

I started my Air Force career in a joint environment and went to war in a joint environment. I've now spent about a third of my Air Force career in a joint environment. I'm extremely proud to say I've served with the best Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines this world has ever seen. Air Power!