DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. – Ask anyone what they wanted to be when they grew up and chances are at least a few will say a police officer or a military member.
Senior Airman Damian Dillett, a 94th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft engine technician, decided early on to pursue both dreams.
“I always knew I wanted to become a police officer and join the military,” said Dillett.
What drew him to both jobs was the sense of being a part of something bigger than himself, not to mention the teamwork aspect, he said.
“You have people counting on you to do a job,” Dillett said. “If it doesn’t get done, it’s going to affect a lot of people.”
His road to becoming a police officer began at Dobbins, where he works with fellow mechanics to ensure the aircraft engines are properly maintained. As a Reserve Citizen Airman, he works fulltime for the Cobb County Police Department fulltime and then at Dobbins one weekend a month.
Before he attended the academy, he was working on a temporary basis at Dobbins while completing his training in aircraft maintenance.
He faced a difficult decision once he reached the final days of training, suddenly needing to determine his next step.
He knew he wanted to become a police officer, but worried whether his family would support his decision, he said.
Becoming a police officer would require attending long training days for the next six months at the Cobb County Police Academy. Additionally, as an Air Force reservist, he’d be away from home for one weekend a month. He knew it would be a lot of time away from his family.
“It’s not easy working 10-hour shifts a day, traveling often and having drill weekend,” Dillett said. “I was worried about my family and whether they would support my decision. I didn’t know how they were going to take it.”
He talked to his wife and explained it was his lifelong dream to become a police officer. She encouraged him to continue chasing his dream.
“Once I crossed that hurdle of worrying what my family would think about me becoming a police officer, then everything else became easier. It just became about the process of becoming a police officer,” Dillett said.
His military experience helped him move seamlessly through the process, particularly basic training as there were many parallels between basic and the academy.
The daily routine at the police academy was very similar to boot camp: early mornings, followed by physical training such as calisthenics, and lots of running.
“Some people weren’t used to that,” said Dillett. “They were used to doing whatever job they were doing before where there wasn’t that type of structure. It wasn’t new to me, which made it a lot easier.”
For the academic portion of the academy, cadets learned about laws, policies and procedures, and worked through different scenarios to be expected when responding to a call.
“Being a police officer, it can go from me just sitting here to having to make a split-second decision that’s going to affect my life or somebody else’s, so I have to be able to make that decision very quickly,” he said.
Now that he’s graduated and working for the Cobb County Police Department, he has noticed his two different careers provide him a unique perspective. As a police officer, he helps people daily at the local level, but with the Air Force Reserve, his help reaches people at an international level.
“As a police officer, every day I’m on the streets helping people in Cobb County, doing what I can and helping people who need assistance,” he explained. “Being an Airman fixing aircraft supports people on a larger scale, whether it’s here domestically or getting planes ready to go overseas or cross country.”
He plans to continue using both jobs to assist as many people as possible, whether it’s mentoring a new Airman in the shop or assisting a Cobb County resident while on patrol.
“I want to do as much as I can and help as many as I can. Obviously I can’t help everyone, but if I can help one person a day, it’ll all be worth it.”