Mission support group commander to retire, reflects on career

  • Published
  • By Col. Elaine K. Barron
  • 512th Mission Support Group commander
As I write this article, I have exactly nine months and 21 days until I retire from the Air Force Reserve and federal service. Upon my retirement, I will have served more than 31 years. (How did that happen?)

I'd like to claim I initially joined the service because I was inspired to serve my country; but, in reality I wanted a reliable salary. I have a degree in social welfare--do I need to say anything else? It didn't take me too long before I realized serving in the Air Force was more than a job. Even as a brand new lieutenant I had an impact and could implement positive change, and through the years I was blessed to meet every sort of individual (some more of a blessing than others) and learn something new every day. How exciting is that?

I entered the active-duty Air Force through Officer Training School as an "88-day wonder." My first assignment was as a personnel officer, assigned to sleepy little Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. At one point during my assignment, the Services squadron commander was fired, and because of my job performance I was put in charge of a squadron as a first lieutenant. This may not sound like a good thing, and it certainly did not seem that way to me at the time; but, it was a learning experience that served me well down the road. My next assignment moved me all the way to southern Mississippi to be a personnel officer instructor, which was a great assignment. Three years later, I was off to work at the then Headquarters, Air Training Command and Headquarters, Air Force Recruiting Service at Randolph AFB, Texas.

I eventually got married; and as part of a joint spouse assignment, I returned to a wing to serve as the Military Personnel Flight chief at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. While there, I entered the AF Reserve world in 1990 as an Individual Mobilization Augmentee. For those of you who may not be familiar with the IMA program, these are reservists, typically with specialized active-duty experience, who augment an active-duty unit. Following my husband, I became a Category E IMA, which means I didn't earn pay and worked for points only. I worked as an assistant to the Defense Attaché in the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia. Two years later, I returned to the states as a Category B IMA, meaning I earned pay and points, to work in Services once again at Randolph AFB.

In 2000, I became a full-time reservist by entering the Air Reserve Technician program as the 939th Mission Support Group commander at Portland International Airport, Ore. In 2006, I transferred to the 512th Airlift Wing, which is where I will bring my career to a close.

Perhaps my career is not traditional, but I only had those options by doing my very best in each assignment. Don't approach your current position as the end of the road, because you never know where life is going to take you. If you always do your best, you will have many more Air Force options than if you are just trying to squeak by. It can be an exciting trip especially when you know you have options. Happy trails!