Monday, August 02, 2010

20-Years And Counting, A Journey of Service...or...Working For Half Pay

This picture is a funny stab at how many perceive the Air Force. Of course, there are other pictures with the same caveman for the other services, but this one is appropriate...because I serve and have served in the Air Force for the past 20-years. My road has had several turns in it. Starting from day 1. Do the quick public math, and my first day was 2 Aug 90, the day Iraq invaded Kuwait. I have spent my entire career at war. With each passing year, my commitment and the Air Force's commitment to said wars have increased. So, how is it this loud-mouthed, Southern-Californian, free-thinking, guy not only served for 20-years, but has kind of thrived in this environment? I really don't know exactly, but I do know many people have helped me along the way.

I didn't joined the Air Force, because I had done my research, and wanted nothing more than a sterling AF career. Rather, it was my only affordable option. I graduated with a 3.63 GPA and wasn't even in the top 20% of my class. Combine that with the fact my family didn't have enough money to pay for college, but made too much to qualify for grants/good loans...and it was off to the Air Force. For the record, there were only two reasons why I chose the AF; 1) My dad served in the AF, 2) It was BY FAR the easiest service to serve in. (But not for long!)

I joined the Air Force in hopes to see the world. Bright-eyed and eager to serve my country in any location...the Air Force sent me to Northern California...TWICE! Hell...the second time, my mom, step-dad, step-brother and his wife moved to the same place. According to my Travel-Buddy map, I've seen 19% of the world in the past 20-years...with exciting stops in hot spots like: Liberia, Iraq, Bosnia, Slovakia, and Cote d' Ivoire. Oh...and some real hard duty in places like: Croatia, UK, Germany, and France.

I had the pleasure to spend time in a one man-life raft, eat maggot and bunny soup. I was convinced I was lost on the North Korean boarder during a survival training exercise. I re-enlisted at 80,000 feet. I interviewed Toby Keith...twice! Hell, I was just in Esquire magazine. (Story not posted yet) I met the love of my life...had chicken on the Iranian boarder...flew a T-38...launched men to 100,000 feet at mach 3+ and they "One Fish, Two Fish" about 20 times to kids in three a letter of reprimand for being naked...taught yoga in a room full of M16's, M4's and 9Mil's...taught yoga to wounded warriors...and have made friends from every walk of life in every corner of the world. It has been a blast...but I didn't do it by myself. That is for sure.

Obviously, and justifiably, I can credit all of my success to my wife Shelly who has shaped me into a credible person...and while everyone I've met has made an impact on me...and I have made a ton of life-long friends along the way...this part of the blog is more about professional impact. When I think about the people who have made me the Airman I am today...six people come to mind:

MSgt Ed Cotney: Msgt Cotney taught me the value of shooting for the stars and being prepared. I sat and watched Ed make other supervisors and section leaders look like fools. Not because he was brazen or harsh, but because he was prepared and always asked for more than he needed, knowing he wouldn't get it when money was on the table, Ed had already spent it.

TSgt Kevin Wagner: TSgt Wagner taught me that it was OK to have fun at work...and boy did we. Due to federal statute of limitations I can't go into full detail all of the "FUN" we had, but suffice to say we sure as hell did. Kevin somehow got this surfer boy who had no business being anywhere near a "survival" situation to be a moderately competent survival instructor. PS...I still think I could build a two-foot high fire in five minutes. The only thing Kevin couldn't get me to do was jump out of a perfectly good plane.

The Wonder Team: SrA Mellissa Allan, SrA Dan Bellis, SrA Yoel Lienwand, SrA Sunny Tanecka, SrA JC Spiva, and A1C Adam Winston: These were the first broadcasters I had the opportunity to work with. I showed up as a brand new SSgt and these guys were and still to date the best and brightest I've ever worked with. They put in long hours every day...not because their boss made them, or because of poor management, low manning levels...but because they wanted to be the best at what they did. They were studs...even if there were one or two Christmas trees destroyed in the making of a top-secret video.

SSgt Chris Vadnais: Chris is the smartest, most talented human I've ever met...possibly in the universe. For a hot New York minute...I actually out-ranked him. Today, he is a SMSgt select...destined for Chief. Chris motivates me every day to be better at what ever I do. While we've never worked in the same office, or country at any one time...I've teamed up with Chris on several major projects that have hopefully made an impact on the broadcasting career field. Chris is an innovator when it comes to training techniques. He always is looking for better ways to do just about everything. By standing next to him, you will easily gain 10-20 IQ points. If you're lucky enough...he might even write you your very own Hip-Hop song about Malt Liquor.

Major Melinda Morgan: My Air Force Mom! Major Morgan with one sentence changed my life. I had recently been diagnosed with ADD and had somehow totally messed up my back when she told me the following: "Oh should really try yoga!" Today, I've been medicine free for more than three years, and I'm a yoga instructor with plans on being a full-time instructor when I retire. You were right about Baron Baptiste! Namaste my friend.

MSgt Mark Haviland: To me, MSgt Haviland was the complete package! Equal parts leadership, knowledge, inspiration, and charisma. Mark once told me he wasn't in the business of hitting singles, rather home-runs. After that...I was hooked! We spent many hours plotting how social media would impact our career field, and how we should stay ahead of it, and incorporate it. You should check out some of my earliest blog posts. One of them actually did shape our career field. It is Mark that I hope I am most like.

Over the past 20-years, I've spent the majority of my time training and sharing knowledge with others. I've been fortunate to be in positions that allow me to lead, train and produce all at the same time. As I close in on the end of my career, after countless "Chris Eder Tip of the Day's," I will transition to the Defense Information School to be a full-time instructor of tomorrow's "home-run" hitters for the next couple of years. Many of you surely can recall dozen of my catch phrases that I've used over the years, but the following really captures my spirit. I hope it captures yours.

Simple five step plan for just about everyone and everything
1. Go, make something happen.
2. Do work you're proud of.
3. Treat people with respect.
4. Make big promises and keep them.
5. Ship it out the door.
When in doubt, see #1.


Chris Vadnais said...

Wow. Humbled.

I always felt I had to step it up a notch when you were around. Mostly because people are keeping an eye on us, making sure we didn't break anything or get arrested...

Congrats on the 20!

Anonymous said...

Chris, you have been a joy, a blessing and an inspiration. Your comment today meant the world to me....more than I can leave in a blog comment, just know you make a difference.

Mom Mindy Morgan