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Different perspective changes attitude

Jeremy Payne, 8, peers through binonculars while touring the Dobbins air traffic control tower Sept. 15. Jeremy was able to try his hand at flying a C-130 simulator, coordinating air traffic on the ATC simulator, received night-vision goggles training, attended pre-flight briefings and viewed a C-130 formation take off from the control tower.

Jeremy Payne, 8, peers through binonculars while touring the Dobbins air traffic control tower Sept. 15. Jeremy was able to try his hand at flying a C-130 simulator, coordinating air traffic on the ATC simulator, received night-vision goggles training, attended pre-flight briefings and viewed a C-130 formation take off from the control tower.

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. -- As a videographer on active duty and a public affairs specialist stationed here as a Reservist, I have had the pleasure of seeing almost every job in the Air Force. I have talked to and videotaped aircraft mechanics, security forces, civil engineers, pilots and many others. Multiple opportunities have been given to me from being a passenger in several different aircraft to hunkering down with security forces on night training operations.

Recently, I was assigned to take photos of a base tour given to an 8-year-old boy named Jeremy. His father, a previous military service member, recently died from Leukemia. Documenting base tours is a standard job assignment, and most of the time they are uneventful and predictable. The person receives a few briefings, sees the different job sections on base and occasionally they are allowed to do a walk through on a C-130 or other similar aircraft.

The difference about this base tour was Jeremy was actively involved in the only way a young child could be. I expected a young kid to be lost in military jargon and only left wondering if it would be possible for him to play with a gun or shoot someone. Amazement came over me when he pulled out a sheet with several questions on it, many of which I didn't know the answer to.

Between the sporadic "wow" and "cool" he was able to maintain a never-ending smile and wide eyes glaring at everything that was presented to him. It was in those moments I stopped being a bored know-it-all public affairs guy and turned into a spectator.

The Air Force became cool and something amazing to me all over again. While the tour was really for Jeremy, I felt like it was for me too. I was fascinated by the C-130 flight simulator and the air traffic controller's tower simulator. Seeing the Air Force and the jobs through his eyes reminded me that amazing things happen every day.

I had forgotten what it was like my first few months in when everything was new. I remembered how I couldn't believe that anyone would give me, a kid barely 19, to witness and interact with the people and machines making the mission happen every day. I use to stand outside my dorm room at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. and watch HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters and HC-130 Hercules take-off and think how this is an amazing opportunity. 

It was truly a shame that those opportunities and happenings had lost their ability to captivate me. They became just another regular activity as if it were like going to the grocery store.

The tour ended in the air traffic control tower while everyone watched three C-130 aircraft taxi down the airfield. The engines let out a loud roar just seconds before hulking down the runway. As each engine put out a tail of mist and the wheels left the runway, I was reminded that every now and then all of us need to take a step back and remember what we are doing.

Too easily we get caught up in the pressures of the day and forget that we are less than 1 percent of the population who chose to serve our country. We see every day, what the other 99 percent get to see every once in a while at an air show or base tour.

Every once in a while take a step back, look around, and take in what you and all of your fellow Airmen are accomplishing. Remember it as if it were the first time you saw it.