Surviving: My first few weeks as a McConnell Airman

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Laura L. Valentine
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
After 21 hours of driving westward across the United States with more than a thousand pounds of my personal belongings crammed in my SUV, I arrived at McConnell to officially begin my job as a public affairs specialist. I made it as far as the main gate before my stomach started to rumble with the flutters of nervous butterflies.

As a first-term Airman with relatively no idea of what to expect at my first base, I had endless questions running through my head. Particularly, how soon would I be writing and shooting photos and what was there to do in town?

The answers to those questions and many more were readily provided to me, and delivered with a smile and friendly, "Welcome to McConnell."

Surviving the first couple of weeks as a new Airman was reasonably painless, with only mild boredom and total lack of knowing how to work the phone system in the office. After navigating Fort Bragg, N.C., the largest U.S. Army installation in the world, for the past 16 years, McConnell seemed like a piece of cake. Yet somehow, I managed to get lost on the three main roads here. Within a few days however, I was not only given a story and scheduled for all necessary briefings and appointments, I had successfully figured out how to get from one end of base to another.

Two of the greatest resources for me as a new Airman were McConnell's Right Start program and the week-long First Term Airman Center course.

Despite the lengthy day of Right Start, the information given about McConnell, as well as Wichita, Kan., was extremely beneficial.

The variety of mandatory briefings conveniently packed into five days of FTAC helped me to become more familiar with various base organizations and resources. We even had a mock physical fitness assessment test. Although dreaded, it was a good gauge at what areas I needed to work on to improve my overall PT score.

When the rush of up-rooting my life to move to "middle-earth" had dwindled, my in-processing checklists were near completion and my level of stress was significantly lower, I realized how fortunate I am to be at McConnell for my first duty station. There are a lot of fantastic opportunities here and in the surrounding area, the weather can be nice, when the wind isn't strong enough to knock me down, and the members of Team McConnell are friendly and down-to-earth.

Some helpful advice from one Airman to another:
  •  If you live in the dorms, personalize the space. Pictures of family and friends and artwork help to brighten the small room.
  • Go to the Airman's Attic. There is an endless assortment of household items, books, and clothes. Even uniform items, particularly blues. The best part is it's all free! The Airman's Attic is located in Bldg 804 and is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Don't sit in your room all evening, bored staring at the wall. Try something new, take a class at the gym, or go to the base library.
  •  Be involved with what happens on McConnell. Follow base news and events on the McConnell website at and "like" the McConnell Facebook.
  • Be friendly, shamelessly friendly. You never know when you might need to borrow something, need a ride, or need to casually tell someone at 2 a.m. to turn down their stereo base so you can sleep.
  • Try to do something "bullet-worthy" every week. Just don't forget to write it down.