Truly humbled: my transition from enlistee to Air Force officer

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Danielle Purnell
  • 80th Aerial Port Squadron
Truly humbled; two words that come to mind when I think about the last three months and a journey that started almost two years ago.

With the guidance and help from my wing and office leadership, I was nominated and selected as a Senior Airman to earn a commission through the Deserving Airman Commissioning program. A year later, I was off to Officer Training School.

I recall jumping out of bed on the first morning after my OTS arrival. I barely slept the night before. I was greeted by military training instructors whose Smokey-the-Bear hats rested midway down their eyes, like they did at Basic Military Training. Later, after training commenced, I was introduced to the upper classmen, who barked out 50 directions at 50 miles per hour and expected me to remember them all. This was training day zero.

Morning wake-up calls sounded like a herd of elephants. My dorm rumbled and a small army of people barked orders from the hallway. "Get up, get on the wall," they yelled. I had 30 seconds to get into the hallway with fists clasped to the seam of my trousers and feet at a 90 degree angle.

My two roommates and I rushed out and quickly snapped to position, where we were joined by 12 men in our flight. Further down along the same hallway, sweat dripped off the brows of trembling individuals from the other flights. We were the Tiger Squadron. Together, we would get through the challenges of the next 12 weeks together.

I recall several interactions with the "fog of war." I had to juggle managing a job within my flight, completing several official forms and keeping up with my memory work. After progressing through the program, a squadron and/or wing-level job was added to the list. Physical training began at 4:45 a.m. every morning, Monday through Saturday. I had less than five minutes to eat each meal.

Obstacle courses were used throughout the program. I was graded against a leadership competency evaluation, which is used to identify an individual's strengths and weaknesses as a leader. I was then charged to train the lower classmen when my upper classmates graduated. My physical strength was tested during a week of Jiu-Jitsu styled combative training. A plethora of other experiences that overall paved the way for me to become a better leader.

Now, a sigh of relief comes to mind knowing that I successfully completed the program. I am humbled to have been even given the opportunity to attend OTS and to now say, I am an officer in the world's greatest Air Force.

2d Lt. Purnell is currently attending technical school. Once completed, she will join the 80th Aerial Port Squadron as a logistics readiness officer.