Today is my last official day in the Air Force. Effective midnight, I go from Lt Col Allison, to Mr. Allison. I have served our nation for 24 years and a handful of days. Not as long as others, and longer than others. It is a weird feeling. If you add ROTC and Civil Air Patrol into the mix, I’ve been wearing the Air Force uniform since I was 15, over thirty years now.

The past few months have been a time of reflection, as well as an exciting time for myself and my family. We’ve packed up and moved to a city where we had no friends, bought a house, and have started a new life outside of the military families we interacted with in the past. There is not much of a military presence here in Raleigh, so while there are plenty of vets, you don’t see people coming and going in uniform. We live close enough to the airport to hear the jets, but the sound they make are nothing compared to an F–16 or F–35. I will miss those sounds.

Here’s my career in a nutshell:

  • Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

Brand new butter bar. Worked jet engines as a Logistics Engineer/Cost Analyst. Had some wonderful mentors friends. Got picked up for my Masters. Ohio had a lot to do, if you looked for it. Great people, but very long winters.

  • Kirtland AFB, New Mexico

Lots of sun. Learned politics the hard way – got burned by lying boss. Transformed Air Force from career to job for me. Organization fundamentally broken. Some wonderful people. My first leadership experience. Fabulous set of friends from Church. Green chile is best. Sad to leave friends, but happy to leave job.

  • Scriever AFB, Colorado

Long days, lots of travel. Working with secrets not that exciting, but we got stuff done. Big leadership challenges, but we managed to get the prototype out the door. Business trips everywhere, three weeks a month for almost four years. Great accomplishments at work. Loved Colorado Springs, except for the religious nuts. Drove home into a postcard every night. Great friends at church. Lot of good live music.

  • Osan AB, South Korea

Definitely different. Great job and great team. Very different culture, and a year that my liver won’t forgive me for. Long flights back to Orlando for meetings. Wearing chemical warfare suits in the office isn’t fun. Huge success at our major exercise.

  • Bolling AFB, Washington DC

Welcome to the Intelligence Community. Still a bell curve. Some brilliant, some stupid. Some great analysis, some outright stupid. Lots of guessing as to what others will do. Deployed to Qatar, long hours and mastery of Access. Met Amy just before moving, no idea how important meeting her would be.

  • Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts

Where I really shined in my career. Give me software and challenges! Played firefighter for the boss, and recognized with my own Division. Lots of leadership opportunities and technical challenges. The law around acquisition flies in the face of common sense. Very sad to leave, wish I could have stayed longer to complete the tasks at hand.

  • Eglin AFB, Florida

Some great people, but still a fundamentally broken organization. Bait and switch on my job, basically left with little to do. On the good side, Adrian filled the time. Babysat the Front Office first, then moved to babysit a more senior Program Manager, not. Geared towards failure. Clueless about software, kinda important for software defined weapons. Deployed to Tampastan for four month with Amy and Adrian. Tampa good, CENTCOM is a hammer looking for nails. Back at Eglin as Deputy Division Chief, pushed paperwork, worked on resume, and post-retirement job hunting. I wish I could have left the Air Force on a high note.

Unlike a lot of Airmen, I did not see combat and endless days of 12 hour shifts. I am fortunate that my body survived mostly in tact and I’m not crippled from jumping out of airplanes. On the other hand, most of my career was identical to being a civilian government employee, but with an uniform. Despite the different jobs, I always tried to maintain awareness of why the Air Force exists and how it can accomplish its missions better.

The Air Force has changed a lot since I got in to today. When I got in, the only physical requirement was that I could run 1.5 miles. Now, physical fitness is more important than your job performance. When I got in it was at the end of the era when people went to the club for drinks after work. Now the clubs are either greatly scaled back or closed. When I got it it was about airplanes and spacecraft. Now the Air Force is focused on everything, resulting in being focused on nothing. Cyber this, and cyber that. Keyboards have never captured territory.

Some things haven’t changed. It is still all about the people. It is the people that make the Air Force, not the stuff, no matter how shiny that new toy is. Our technology isn’t really ahead anymore due to the snail’s pace of acquisition. Our planes are old. Our software is old. Something is going to break and it isn’t going to be pretty. But no matter what, there will be people doing their best to keep everything flying.

What I will miss the most is the people.