Continuing the service

Soldiers, Airmen and Royal Air Force members stand in a joint formation for a ceremony on the seven-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sept. 11 at Sather Air Base, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Brian Davidson)

Soldiers, Airmen and Royal Air Force members stand in a joint formation for a ceremony on the seven-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sept. 11 at Sather Air Base, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Brian Davidson)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Everyone joins the military for different reasons. Some join because they want to serve their country, others to follow family tradition. Some join because they want to see the world, while others simply need a job.

I enlisted as a third-generation Airman, and at least fourth-generation military. Because of that legacy, I wanted to devote some time in service to my country.

Since I came in July 27, 2009, the photojournalist career field has provided me with incredible experiences most Airmen may never get.

I've sat down and had a soda with Pakistan fighter pilots. I followed a prince of Saudi Arabia around during a base exercise. I've engaged with two separate NATO Supreme Allied Commanders Europe during their visits to military installations. I've gone to the Republic of Korea and played war games in a James-Bond-style cave. I've hiked through a field with joint tactical air controllers and witnessed them call in a helicopter to take out an enemy stronghold to ensure freedom and justice prevail.

Lastly, I've been assigned to Turkey and witnessed historical sights that I never would have dreamed of seeing.

Now, I find myself coming down to the end of my enlistment and about to separate from active-duty service. Because of the incredible opportunities I've had because of my job, I wish to stay in and serve in some way. My original intent was go into Air Force Reserves.

However, after in-service Air National Guard recruiter Master Sgt. LaTisha Moulds, 48th Force Support Squadron from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, visited Incirlik Air Base last week, I am now exploring the ANG as an option.

"It's important to go into the decision about your future out of active duty completely informed and knowing all of your options," Moulds said. "A lot of people don't really know or understand what the guard has to offer."

The biggest difference between the Air Guard and Reserve is the Reserve works for the federal government only, while the Air Guard works for the state first and then the federal.

"Because of this, the guard actually offers state benefits on top of the federal benefits," Moulds pointed out. "It's the best of both worlds. These benefits will vary from state to state, so which state you would want to be part of is something to consider."

One example is the Air Guard provides special education benefits for the state in which one is a member of the ANG, Moulds added. And, you still get to keep your G.I. Bill for education as well.

The ANG recruiter said she started her Air Force career as a reservist and then switched over to the Air Guard.

Switching back and forth between the Air Guard and Reserve is also an option people have while continuing their military career, Moulds explained. The time will all count towards retirement.

Meeting with Moulds provided me with a lot of information I had been unaware of, and answered questions I was unaware I had. It was extremely helpful.

The choice to remain on active duty or serve in a different capacity is a personal decision, but whatever decision one makes should be an informed one.

Those members of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa looking into separating and who would like to learn more about the ANG can contact Master Sgt. LaTisha Moulds at DSN 226-1251 or by e-mail at latisha.moulds@us.af.mil.