Have you lost the passion?

The dining facility was packed with Airmen from around the base. There was standing room only in the back. Everyone had gathered for what is called the ‘Town Hall’ meeting during October’s drill.

During the meeting, Chief Cullen, the Wisconsin state command chief, said something that really stuck out in my mind.

He said, “If you ever start to feel like you’re losing the passion, step back for a couple moments and think about why you’re here.”

Why am I here? Why did I decide to join Wisconsin’s Air National Guard?

I didn’t join the Wisconsin ANG originally – I joined the active duty force in 2010. My goal at that time was to become a linguist. I made honor grad at basic training and then headed off to tech school in Monterey, California, to study at the Defense Language Institute.

Having such a prestigious school in beautiful Monterey was a blessing and a curse. Spending more time on the beach than studying Farsi (the language I was learning) eventually caught up with me, and I failed out of my course after nine long months of school…three months short of graduation.

I was given the option to get out of the world’s greatest Air Force, or re-class.

I was ready to get out.

I was ready to go home and resume life the way I had known it before this adventure I decided to take at 24-years-old.

My mom told me I’d regret that decision, and moms know best – so I decided to stay in. I was told to put together a list of my top seven jobs. At the top of my list were intel positions. I had already obtained my top secret security clearance, so was advised those would be the easiest jobs to get into.

Then, just for fun, I added public affairs as my number seven choice.

Two days later, I was notified of an opening. To my delight (and shock) – I’d be heading to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, to study public affairs!

Tech school was completely different this time around. I didn’t dread going to school. Instead, I enjoyed every minute of it! I finally found something I was good at…and passionate about!

I was still eager to come home, so after learning about the Palace Chase program while at my first active duty station, I applied and was accepted to join the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison – the best blessing I could’ve ever asked for!

“If you ever start to feel like you’re losing the passion, step back for a couple moments and think about why you’re here.”

I know everyone’s story is different, but there’s a reason you joined the Guard. There’s a reason you put on that uniform. Step back and take a moment to remember what that reason is.

Freedom isn’t free, but it’s definitely worth fighting for when I get to serve next to people like you!

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About Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode

Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode is a photojournalist for the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin.