Student for hire Palace 'Acquired'

  • Published
  • By Jeremy C. Maddox
  • 452nd Air Mobility Wing
I was an occupational health and safety major at Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Ind., and the 2009 Spring Career Fair was fast approaching. The U.S. Air Force was among the list of possibilities that most interested me. I polished my resume, put on my business game face and went forward the day of the career fair.

I stopped by everyone's table, including those that had nothing to do with my major. My thought was, if I can get my foot in the door anywhere, I can do well whether technically trained or not. I made my rounds to the Air Force table and I handed them my resume, chatted a bit and went on about my business. Everything they told me at the table sounded great, and I got a cool pen and magnet. My goal was to place my resume in as many hands as possible to increase the probability of someone calling me back.

Months later, my professor told us that the Air Force was coming back for more interviews, so I signed up. I was interviewed by a nice, vibrant lady for about an hour. We talked about everything regarding the job and personal goals. At the time, I had no idea what civil service was, and I didn't have any notion of what an Air Force base looked like.

Round 1 of interviews went well and I made the cut. During the final interview later, we talked about location, which was very important to me.

At the time of the final interview, I had moved on to graduate school with a concentration in occupational health and safety. It was scary to be in graduate school and know that I had two real options upon graduating: graduate un-hired and live at home with a master's degree, or get hired and start life. Keep in mind that most safety jobs outside of the federal government were asking for five to seven years of experience. I had the schooling but no experience.

During the next phase of applications and more waiting, I forgot about the Air Force and accepted that it just wasn't going to happen. Then, I got an email that stood out because it looked very official. Sure enough, it was an email from the Palace Acquire Intern Program (PAQ) telling me I had X-number of days to respond with my acceptance or declination to the program. I didn't know what half of the things in the email meant, but I knew that I was elated! I was elated for many reasons:

1. I got a job offer that I was really interested in, and I would later find out how fortunate I am to work for the federal government in terms of job security and training.

2. The Palace Acquire staff really worked hard on my behalf to get me placed where I wanted to go, which was California. California wasn't an actual option that was presented to me, but the staff asked me if I could go anywhere, where would I like to go? Some way or another, it worked out.

3. Salary and training! Let's be honest, we go to work to make a living to take care of life necessities, so salary is important. Although I had no clue what General Schedule pay grades were, I knew that I could make an honest living without struggling to make ends meet.

I received a packet of information via email to fill out and return. The most notable document was the SF-86, because I was unaware of security clearance requirements. Along with the SF-86, there were a lot of acronyms, terms and Air Force jargon that I didn't know, and I had no idea how to read official travel orders. With no military experience, it was like deciphering hieroglyphics.

A month and a few headaches later, I reported to duty at March Air Reserve Base, Calif. It was an awesome experience. Everything looked important and official. On top of that, March ARB has a very welcoming, vintage Hollywood, World War II feel. I went through a week of in-processing and then moved on to computer-based training to get totally immersed.

I was introduced to the Air Force Safety Automated System a few months later. Around this time I was also gearing up to go to the Operational Risk Management course -- my first Air Force training class and my first TDY. During my time as an intern, I've been fortunate to attend many training opportunities such as: ORM, 3-level school, Mishap Investigation Non-Aviation, some Occupational Health and Safety Association courses, a few conferences and some miscellaneous courses. I'm currently scheduled for 7-level and a couple of defensive driving courses.

Since my arrival at March, I've been functional mainly in the area of mishap investigations and reporting them in AFSAS. I'm just now starting to get my feet wet regarding facility and program inspections. I'm currently prepping to be out-placed at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., where I hope to hit the ground running and learn as much as I can. I've had a great experience at March ARB. Since it's a Reserve base, I've learned some unique things that will aid me in my out-placement.

I'm very thankful for the opportunity to have been considered as a Palace Acquire intern. I'm thankful that the Air Force took a chance on me. I've met some important people I probably would not have met otherwise. I've been to training that some have to fight to attend, and I've been rewarded financially for doing my job as a 0018 Safety Specialist. My gripes are minimal. My thanks are large!