Travel, an Air Force Immeasurable Benefit

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland -- Abraham Lincoln once said, “In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.” A very true statement by one of our countries greatest presidents, and the Air Force can put “life in your years” if you grab the opportunities when they come your way.

I went home to California recently, and had a good conversation with one of my old high school friends. We were talking about our lives, things going on in the country, and world events and it became very clear to me, that although we started in the same place, our differing life experiences drastically changed our perspectives of the world. My friend has lived in California his entire life, and his only travels beyond its borders have been to Las Vegas and Arizona.

I, on the other hand, have been to 25 countries and 35 states. I’ve lived 12 years in Europe and four and a half years in the Pacific theater. I’ve seen forests and jungles, cave dwellings and castles, the world’s greatest opulence and its worst poverty. Measuring life in years, my friend and I are the same age, but measuring life in experiences and adventure, I’m probably 250 years older. Almost everything that happens in the news, whether local or global, means something to me. I have touched it in some way at some time in my life. Mark Twain said it best “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”. How would I not be more worldly than my friend when he hasn’t seen the world?

Travel is a benefit that can’t really be measured like BAH, COLA, and the GI-BILL…it’s intangible. Although the Air Force mandates it of us at times, for the most part it’s only there if you take it and make the most of it. I didn’t start out my Air Force career with travel as my number one goal. I took assignment opportunities as they came to me, and the Air Force did the rest. I’ve moved every three years for the past 26 years, and I think I still have a few more moves left in me.

I bring this topic up for a good reason. I’ve talked to quite a few Airman over the last 24 months who have been in Colorado for six plus years, yet they say they want to get out of Colorado. However, when I dig deeper, I find out they only push the volunteer button when Hawaii is on the assignment’s list (surprise, they didn’t get it), or they’re waiting for their kids to reach a certain age, or…. I can tell you this, I have never had an assignment I didn’t like, and the benefits of travel outweigh any inconvenience of the move.

In my opinion, the opportunity of travel is our number one Air Force benefit, and travel does put “life in your years”. I read an internet article last week entitled “Top 37 Things Dying People Say They Regret”, and guess what was first on the list of regrets--not traveling when people had the chance. I realize some career fields don’t have the same opportunities to travel, and for those I suggest you keep an eye on special duties and the Developmental Special Duty Program to augment your Air Force journey.

Let me leave you with this St. Augustine quote “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Life is an adventure, so why not use the Air Force to make it happen.