Leah Mathewson, U.S. Air Force. Served for eight years
Why did you choose this branch of military service? It is arguably the smartest branch. Also, push-ups, not pull-ups 😊
Did you come from a military family? My grandpa served in the Navy, my uncle and brother-in-law in the Air Force.
What countries did you visit while in the service? Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Germany, England, Thailand, Egypt, and Japan.
Was there a favorite place you lived? Anchorage, AK. Beautiful scenery and the best group of friends. I learned how to snowboard and King Salmon fish while stationed there.
What role did you serve within your branch of service? Airborne Warning & Control Systems (AWACS) Radar Technician for the E-3 Sentry. I performed ground maintenance, but I was also one of three technicians on flying status, so I flew on training sorties every month, or whenever radar problems occurred that required in-flight troubleshooting.
What brought you to the decision to serve our military? My uncle’s influence and my need to see the world.
What was the biggest lesson learned in the military? To take responsibility. There is no way to avoid accountability in the military. If you did it, own up to it. If you didn't get it done, admit it. If you are ordered to do something, just do it.
Do you still have habits that were part of your military life that are still part of our everyday life? I still avoid walking on the grass and I eat fast (becoming a mom has only made this worse!).
What advice do you have to the youth in our country about serving in the military? It’s not going to be a cake walk, you’re going to have to work hard, but you will gain a sense of pride in yourself and country that will never leave you.
What else do you want to share about your service? You gain friendships for a lifetime and can easily carry on conversations with military members you didn’t serve with due to the shared experience. I wish I could go back and do it all over again!
Jason Baker, U.S. Air Force. Served for ten years from 1995-2005
Why did you choose this branch of military service? I wanted to serve my country as well as learn technical job skills. The Air Force offered the most of what I was looking for.
Did you come from a military family? My father was drafted to the Army around 1969 and served two years in a missile unit in Germany. My Grandfather was drafted by the Army and served as an MP in Europe and Northern Africa during WWII.
What countries did you visit while in the service? Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, Germany, Portugal, England, and Canada.
Was there a favorite place you lived? I was based out of Tinker AFB, Oklahoma (Near Oklahoma City) for my entire Air Force Career. I made a lot of great friendships and met my wife while living in Oklahoma.
What role did you serve within your branch of service? I was a Computer and Electronics Technician on the E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft.
What brought you to the decision to serve our military? After High School I did not have clear direction on the path I wanted to take in the next phase of my life, I knew I was not ready for college. Gaining experience and direction while serving my country fit what I was looking for. One of the best decisions I made.
What was the biggest lesson learned in the military? The importance of attention to detail.
Do you still have habits that were part of your military life that are still part of our everyday life? Patriotism and respect for the American Flag and what it stands for.
What advice do you have to the youth in our country about serving in the military? The military service is a great way to gain experience, training, and direction. There are many paths to consider in the military. If thinking about serving, I suggest that before making the commitment you speak with some veterans (not just recruiters) and listen to their experiences and suggestions on how to have a successful and rewarding military career.
Dave Robinson, U.S. Air Force. Served from 1989-1998
Why did you choose this branch of military service? My Dad was in the U.S. Army and he talked about the jobs and living conditions the Army had compared to the Airmen in the same location. He shared that if/when I went into the Military, he preferred that I go into the Air Force. Since I was interested in electronics and he also felt this would be a better fit for what I wanted to do in my career. I was able to visit my Uncle, who was in the Air Force and stationed at Plattsburgh AFB in New York and after talking with him and meeting a few other Airmen, I felt that was the direction I wanted to go.
Did you come from a military family? My Dad was in the U.S. Army and was drafted in the late 60’s during the Vietnam War. He was stationed in Germany and served for two years. He has always been very active in the American Legion and a strong supporter of military functions and organizations. There are also many past generations within my family that served in the military. Some with very distinguished records that included service during the U.S. Civil War.
What places did you visit while in the service? I was able to spend time in almost every state West of the Mississippi River, including Alaska and Hawaii, and also a few states on the Eastern side of the U.S. I have also worked a few months in both Italy and Japan.
Was there a favorite place you lived? I have visited and worked in over 50 different locations while I was in the Air Force. I would say Hawaii and Japan were some of the best places to spend time at. However, my favorite place to be stationed was in Northern Michigan. One of the reasons is because I am from Michigan and I am more comfortable being in nature than the busy lifestyle of the large cities. In my experience, people are friendlier and more laid back in less populated areas and I had better friendships while I was there.
What role did you serve within your branch of service? My job while in the Air Force was in ground based Navigational Aids and Meteorological systems. For Ground Navigation, this consisted of installing and maintaining Instrument Landing Systems (ILS), TACAN (Tactical Air Navigation for Military Aircraft), and VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range for aircraft w/out GPS). Back then, planes navigated by using a map that contained different locations of transmitting antennas. Each location had its own frequency and they would tune into it and fly in that direction until they could pick up another frequency. They basically would connect the dots all the way to their destination. I also maintained and installed Meteorological systems, which is the technical term for weather equipment. This included systems that would monitor Temperature/Dew Point/Humidity, windspeed and direction, and cloud height detection.
What brought you to the decision to serve our military? I chose to enter the military for a couple reasons. Mainly, because of the many conversations I had with my Dad about his time in the military and the sense of pride he had because of it. I wanted to experience that and do my part to serve my country. I also knew that by enrolling in the Air Force I would be able to further my electronics training that I had begun in High School and help me better prepare for my future.
What was the biggest lesson learned in the military? I remember feeling very overwhelmed prior to enlisting in the military. However, once I was in, I quickly learned how much I could accomplish by getting up early and getting it done. I remember one of the first phone calls I had with my Dad while I was in Basic Training and telling him that I was doing more before 10 AM then I had done for the better part of a week when I was home. I said, I didn’t realize how much time there actually is in a day. Of course, this made him chuckle as he had been trying to tell me this for years.
Do you still have habits that were part of your military life that are still part of our everyday life? I learned so many things when I was in the military and it would be impossible to list them all. The experiences that you go through help shape you into a different person. You probably couldn’t pinpoint many of the things you learned, but it does have a lasting effect. One of the things that I still catch myself doing is “adjusting my gig line”. When you would dress in the military, the line where your button up shirt comes together, your belt buckle, and the fly on your pants were all in line with one another and that was your gig line. I laugh when I catch myself still doing this.
What advice do you have to the youth in our country about serving in the military? Serving in the military will give you a sense of pride you will not find anywhere else. You will gain a new appreciation for things that many people take for granted. It is an honor to serve and protect our country and our way of life and we all should do our part. For some, this includes military service. For others it may be serving in their community. However, never forget the men and women that have made countless sacrifices so that we can all enjoy the benefits of our freedom and everyday life as a U.S. Citizen. President Ronald Reagan once said “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free”.
What else do you want to share about your service? I enjoyed my time in the military. I met a lot of great people and saw places I would have never gone to if I hadn’t enlisted. It was a lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun.