FTAC eases nerves, teaches Air Force way of life

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- As the car traveled down the winding road that lead up to the Vandenberg Air Force Base front gate, I felt the same nervous feeling in my stomach that I felt my first day of basic training. Fortunately in my dorm room, there wasn't a training instructor waiting to teach dress right dress or the proper way to display a laundry bag. With all my belongings shoved into my green duffle bag, I arrived to an empty room that I would soon learn to call home.

It is my belief that these feelings are not unique to me, but they are feelings that a lot of first-term airmen feel when they arrive at their first duty station.

The nerves accumulate mainly because of the suspense of the unknown future. However, the thoughts of finances, food and even education can challenge and confuse first-term airmen.

These concerns are all answered at the First Term Airmen Center. Airmen are mandated to attend a two-week course that helps them understand what Air Force living is all about. With the wealth of knowledge that the Airmen are able to receive, the course allowed me to meet and ask questions to senior leadership here at Vandenberg.

Having over 30 speakers take time out of their all ready hectic schedules was not only informative but exemplified mentorship. Due to their mentorship, I learned the importance of the unique mission that Vandenberg performs. 

The class is also used as a tool to help Airmen understand mission essential programs like operational security and how to better communicate with each other. Many people, when comparing the branches of the military, look at our dining facilities, housing and our well kept bases, but they might not see the full depth of the support structure, such as Life Skills and the education center. FTAC introduces support programs to first-termers so they can adjust to and make use of the intricate parts of Air Force life. 

The best part about the center is that it allowed me to meet other Airmen who have similar experiences.

Since that first day I arrived at Vandenberg my room has been mildly decorated, the nerves I once felt have now turned into soreness from my first "fun" run, but more importantly I am educated and because of that I am no longer a liability but an asset.