by Jeff Appleby
Last year in the Boulder City Magazine I described my memorable experiences as a new recruit in the United States Air Force. Well, with my first year almost completed, I’d like to continue my story.
Technical school was a much better experience for me than Basic Military Training. I had a regular class schedule of Monday through Friday, and normally had the weekends off. Although I didn’t have all my freedom back, it was still a great feeling to be set free. While in technical school I still had rules such as curfew and a strict phase program. The phase program gives students more freedom the longer they are in school, but those freedoms can also be taken away as punishment. While in technical school I learned all about my new job and my new assignment; after technical school I would be heading to Osan Air Base in South Korea. During that time I was also able to hang out with a couple of close friends, and one of them would be heading to Osan AB a couple of weeks after I did. Technical school was a fun time for me, but I was only there for eight weeks before I got on a plane to South Korea.
I arrived at Osan AB, South Korea and reported for my first job. That job is to provide aircraft with munitions to support the Air Base’s mission. In general, what I do is deliver munitions from storage areas to the flightline. I work a lot of 12-hour shifts and many Saturdays, all to keep us safe and secure on the Korean peninsula. Although my job is not always a lot of fun, it’s necessary to maintain mission essential capabilities.
My time in Korea has been a very different experience for me. The first time I left the Air Base I felt like I had entered another world. As soon as I stepped off base I saw stores everywhere selling just about anything you want. There’s over a hundred different bars within a mile of the Air Base, and plenty of familiar places to eat, including McDonalds’ and Popeyes. It’s still hard for me to get used to hearing the Korean language all the time. I’m not a big fan of not being able to communicate with others. Although I haven’t spent a lot of time trying to learn the language, I’ve picked up a few words while in town. Also while in town I find myself passing a lot of Korean restaurants and smelling this NOT amazing smell of Kimchi. Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made commonly with fermented cabbage, but also made with different vegetables, and available in a lot of different varieties. For some people, trying new foods is an exciting experience, but not for me. I’ll stick to what I like.
The weekends are my favorite part about being here. I have had a lot of good times in town with friends and family, which leads to my next story. One Saturday night me and a group of friends were in town enjoying the weekend when the craziest event occurred. We were in transit on foot from one bar to another when someone yelled out my name. I looked to see who it was and I was totally shocked to see my cousin, Justin. Justin joined the Navy a couple of years before me. He just happened to be in port for the rest of the night. So we took him out for a couple of hours until curfew, catching up on life and shooting pool. While we were out we called our grandmother because we knew she would think it was awesome that we ran into each other. The next day I was still in disbelief that out of hundreds of bars I happened to walk by, Justin was outside one.
There are a lot of recreational trips available here to explore the country. So far I’ve visited the DMZ, gone white water rafting, and gone on a snowboarding trip. I was really excited to go snowboarding since it was my first time to experience it. I also plan to go deep-sea fishing and learn to scuba dive before I leave.
The DMZ is a Demilitarized Zone that crosses the whole Korean peninsula and is about two and a half miles wide. It’s also the heaviest militarized border in the world. On that note you might wonder what it’s like over here when incidents happen around the Korean peninsula. Normally, I find out more information about what is happening in Korea from friends, family, or the internet than I do from the Air Base. Although we don’t get much information here, it doesn’t mean the threat isn’t real. From what I understand, most Koreans don’t like to talk about North Korea.
Korea has been quite a different experience for me. Since I’ve been here I have seen and learned a lot both working and off base. The last chapter in my Korean adventure is that I’ve recently met a certain woman here and we have decided to get married. Other than that I’m happy to be coming back to America soon. I will be stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. That is where I hope to be stationed for a while so I can enjoy time with my family.