From Comm to Camera: Navigating a Career Pivot in the Military

  • Published
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing

 Some people know at a young age what career path they want to take, and they go for it. Others, like me, have an idea but their paths may have a few detours before they find it.


When I enlisted in the Air Force in 2016, it came as a surprise to my friends and family, including me. I had considered the military as an option, but my sights were set on attending the University of Southern California and majoring in film.


However, during my senior year I realized that I lacked the maturity, focus, and financial security to be successful in college. Not wanting to lose momentum by taking a gap year, I met with an Air Force recruiter to explore my options. After taking the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery, I eagerly enlisted under an Open General contract because it had the list with the coolest sounding positions.


In basic training, I was selected to become a weather forecaster. The opportunity was exciting because my military training instructor implied it was a rare position. My friends even teased that I already had the hairstyle of a weatherman.


Unfortunately, the novelty quickly wore off during technical training at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. I was homesick, the curriculum was challenging, and I was struggling to adapt to the Air Force’s strict training environment, all of which caused my grades to suffer. I failed my first major test before the holiday break and went home on leave feeling defeated. A few months after returning to Keesler, I failed again, and felt humiliated as I was escorted to the commander’s office in front of the classmates I bonded with and spent the past few months with.


Eventually, I continued to Joint Base Andrews, Maryland in a cyber support role where I still felt out of place. Although the mission was important, I was frustrated because I didn’t share the passion for computers my peers had, and I felt like I could be more useful to the military in a different role.


In 2021, I arrived in Korea for what I intended to be my final year in the Air Force. I had tried retraining into public affairs earlier that summer, but vacancies weren’t available. As I prepared to proceed with my separation in the fall, a friend urged me to inquire with my career field manager one last time about public affairs as a last-ditch effort. To my surprise, two slots had opened.


On May 27. 2022, I was thrilled to report to the Defense Information School in Fort Meade, Maryland. The school hosted every military branch as well as a few visiting students from foreign militaries, and I loved seeing the contrast in uniforms because it put into perspective the scope of our mission.


During my six months of training, I immersed myself in photography, writing, and producing the way I’d dreamt about in high school.

More importantly, returning as a non-commissioned officer also helped me mentor my younger classmates who were experiencing the same hardships I faced at their age. 


Today, as a public affairs specialist serving in California, I love my work because each day is an opportunity to highlight my wingmen through pictures and articles that they can show off to their families back home.


Although we are tasked with many projects and tight deadlines, the satisfaction gained from pouring my heart into my craft and seeing reactions to it makes my long journey and the failures worth it.


Even though the past six years were challenging, I’m grateful for the friends that empowered me to apply for opportunities, even when they seemed out of reach and for the hardships that made me appreciate public affairs even more. The initial circumstances of your career can be frustrating, but there are avenues designed to assist Airmen in getting where they want.


For more information about retraining, call 530-634-3644