KNOXVILLE, Tenn., August 27, 2014 —
First-time deployments for new airmen can be intimidating, even terrifying for the introvert who isn't used to being a part of the team atmosphere that comes with being in the military.
The feelings of nervousness, fear or even embarrassment come easily in this situation. This leads you to wonder if you're going to be accepted into a tight-knit group of people who already are familiar with each other, if you're going to do a good job, or just end up making a fool out of yourself because you don't have a good grasp on what is expected of you.
Being prepared and having the right perspective can allow for a more enjoyable first duty deployment experience.
"I'm not going to lie, I was nervous," said Air Force Airman 1st Class Michael Loy, a heavy equipment operator with the 134th Civil Engineer Squadron. "I came into this not knowing anything about it and it was kind of a shock like, ‘Uh oh, what have I got myself into? I wonder how these people are going to treat me?’ Honestly, I was shaking in my boots."
Being nervous is normal
The good news is, this is a perfectly normal reaction and the important thing to remember is most everyone in the military has had the same feelings at one point or another in their career. Although everyone's experience may be different, everyone understands the feeling of nervousness. However, it is possible to prepare yourself ahead of time to avoid allowing those feelings to dictate whether or not you have a good time on a first deployment.
"Honestly, within the first hour of being here and getting to work I started to feel comfortable," Loy said. "We started laying blocks and I started moving around and talking to people learning about their different jobs and it was a big stress reliever. Once I opened up and started talking to people I realized that everyone wanted to meet me and everyone accepted me with open arms and I started meeting new people and it was just great."
There are a few different things airmen can do to prepare themselves ahead of time for a more enjoyable experience on a first TDY. The first thing they need to do is have an open mind.
Be outgoing, meet people
"Be open-minded," Loy said. "Try to focus on going out and helping and learning as much as you can. It's all about who you're talking to and about getting to know your fellow airmen. Meet new people and just have fun with it because if you're too serious you're not going to learn as much as you could. Just have fun with it."
The next thing that will help relieve a lot of those nervous feelings is to not be afraid of acceptance.
"I was raised in a quiet environment and I really kept to myself," Loy said. "Even sitting here answering these questions in an interview would have scared me to death. But when I just put myself out there, I started getting invited to go places and people asked me to hang out and it immediately started to bring me out of my shell. I started to feel like I was part of the team."
Be prepared for trip
Another thing airmen can do to help prevent stress on their first TDY is to prepare all their gear ahead of time and make sure they have all the things they might need for their trip.
"We're getting ready to get on the plane and someone says to me, 'Hey did you bring your fleece jacket?’ The KC-135's get pretty cold at high altitudes, even though it might be 90 degrees on the ground. All I can think of is I wish I would have known that", said Air Force Airman 1st Class Darby Arnold, a broadcast journalist with the 134th Public Affairs office. This deployment was Arnold's first TDY.
"Then we get there and I realize there is rain forecasted for three or four days of the trip and I didn't know to bring my Gore-Tex jacket, and also the temperatures are sometimes a lot colder up north than what I'm used to in Tennessee,” Arnold said. “Sure enough, all I brought were summer clothes. So, being better prepared before I came, checking the weather ahead of time, and packing some clothes just in case the weather changes would have relieved some of the stress and worry I felt on my first trip."
An enjoyable experience
An airman's first deployment should be an enjoyable experience that helps them to grow and learn the process. Applying these simple tips could assist in making that happen.
"This trip has opened my eyes," Loy said. "After being here for three days I'm already ready for another deployment! Coming on this trip has grown me not only as an airman but as a person and I'm grateful for that. It has given me a whole new confidence in myself and in my job."