In honor of Father's Day...
By Airman 1st Class Benjamin Bugenig, 9RW/PA
/ Published June 21, 2015
BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, California --
When people talk about following in the footsteps of their parents, they tend to leave out the part where they break from the path and start making some footsteps of their own. I've noticed a fair amount of differences between the journey my father and I share but nothing as dramatically different as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. As a child, I looked up at my father in wonder whenever he was wearing his battle dress uniform. He looked official. He commanded respect and authority without saying a single word. He appeared more intimidating than his casual frame usually suggested. When he served as a recruiter, I saw a more clean cut side of the uniform; crisp Air Force blues, colorful ribbons tagged above his left pocket, and the name "Bugenig" etched in plastic on the right.
There was a time when having a uniform of my own was all I could think about. I wanted to be in the United States Air Force. I wanted the respect and admiration of citizens, just like some sort of super hero. However, at the time, my view was limited. I barely had an understanding of what my dad did. I thought the only thing someone could do was be a pilot, which is what I dreamed of becoming. Later on I would get a specific picture of his career field while following around a U-2 Dragon Lady crew chief. His experience ranged from the immortal C-130 Hercules to the present day workhorse, the C-17 Globemaster III. He flew around the world to numerous countries, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore, while our family moved from Germany, to Florida, and all the way back to Washington State where my parents' journey had originally started.
By the time I graduated high school I saw myself as more of a writer and independent filmmaker than a pilot. I honed my craft as years went by, gained some education, and made some creative friends. At the age of 25, I wasn't seeing a lot of progress leading to an actual career. My attention then steered back to the past. My dreams of flying high and my current creative aspirations began to mold into one cohesive vision. After doing a little investigating, I found a career in the Air Force that looked like the right fit for me... broadcast journalism.
When I tell other service members that I'm a broadcast journalist, they give me a look that begs the question, "that's a job?" I go on to explain the process I went through. It was almost a year when I entered the delayed enlistment program to the day I left for basic training. The saying "good things come to those who wait," proved to be correct.
I grew excited through every step of training, knowing that I was going into a career field where I would get to creatively tell the Air Force story. Though, recently I've been reflecting more on the differences between my own choice to join the Air Force and my father's. He enlisted to provide for his family and to secure a career for the next twenty years. I signed up for the experience of it all; to travel and meet new people. My father worked in a specialty that traditionally represents the backbone of the Air Force; keeping the planes in the air, while mine is focused on telling stories like his. While my father was getting his hands dirty and turning wrenches, I've been capturing the moments of fellow airmen through my camera lens. While working on a feature story I spoke with a senior airman about his job and his family life. I followed him around with my video camera as he guided the U-2 Dragon Lady up to a hangar by waving signals with his hands. He lifted panels and inspected wires and gears. His hands glided over rivets to make sure the plane kept its aerodynamic shape. After observing the responsibilities of a crew chief first hand, I went from seeing my dad as a simple mechanic to a supervising authority who shepherded monster-sized cargo aircraft. Even though our careers have been two different experiences, I'm still reminded by every Airman I talk to that we're all part of the same fight. Our jobs may be different, but we all started off by walking in the same footsteps of the ones who came before us. I can't help but paraphrase the Jedi Knight, Luke Skywalker, staring evil in the face and saying... "I'm an Airman, like my father before me."