My Greatest Decision

  • Published
  • By Master SGt. Melissa Ochab
  • 821st Security Forces Squadron
A decision I made at 18 years old in a quick moment of rebellion has turned out to be the best decision of my life. As I neared the end of my junior year of high school, without any plans for college, my mom would begin what I would describe as “nagging” me with questions of my plans after graduation. I jokingly mentioned the military to see her reaction. Since her father and brother both fought in past wars, it upset her to think that one day that could be her daughter too. Of course from that point on, every time someone would inquire about my future, my response would be, “I’m joining the military.”

On Nov. 18, 2003, I stepped off the bus at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas as many have before, not truly knowing what was in store for me.

Fast forward 15 years, and I’m stationed at Thule Air Base, Greenland where I have plenty of time on my hands to reflect on all the experiences the Air Force has afforded me. Some of my experiences include meeting my husband, having children, and creating lifelong friendships. However, one of my most memorable experiences comes from a deployment in 2011 to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

It was my first time working for a female Chief Master Sgt. She had a vision to start an Air Force Female Engagement Team initiative and entrusted me to lead it. We, a group of females, would exit the security of the installation to patrol through the villages in hopes to build and establish rapport with the females around Bagram.

The way I see it, women around the world share a common bond and that’s family, specifically our children. Think about it, if the men are being paid for allowing roadside bombs to be buried in their village, more than likely they are not going to alert us. On the other hand, if the mother has to keep her children from attending school she is more likely to disclose that information because she wants them to have an education.

The objective was to be able to gather possible intelligence that our male counterparts were not able to get.

Along with great experiences came sacrifice, such as postponing wedding dates year after year and vacations and holidays. Nothing was as hard for me as being pulled away from my daughter when she was only six months old.

I missed hearing my children speak their first words, take their first steps and celebrate their first birthdays. Those were the toughest times for me. I will never get that time back. I am thankful and beyond grateful the policies have since changed so that mothers may have more opportunities to watch their children reach developmental milestones.

All things considered, the experiences and sacrifices over the past 15 years, if I had to go back to when I was 18 and decide what I was going to do after graduating high school, it would still be to join not just the military, but the U.S. Air Force.