ONE: first job, second chance

RAF FAIRFORD, United Kingdom --
ONE.1  |  ONE.2  | ONE.3 |

ONE: first job, second chance(U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton/Released)
 

ONE: first job, second chance(Pathfinder Podcasts)

With outstretched arms, he stood motionless as the imposing gray hulk steadily rolled toward him - its four turbofan engines drowning out any and all other sounds. Suddenly, when it almost seemed that the behemoth would roll over him, his hands crossed and the behemoth stopped.

Smiling to himself, Dennis Brewer stepped away from the C-17 Globemaster III as its mighty engines powered down. There was no place he would rather be.

"I love working for the U.S. Air Force," the aerospace ground equipment technician said as he paused and looked out across the flightline at RAF Fairford, United Kingdom. "I've done it for so long I really don't want to go anywhere else or work anywhere else."

Dennis Brewer, 422nd Air Base Group aerospace ground technician, marshals a C-17 Globemaster III to its parking spot at RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, June 2, 2014. For more than two decades, Brewer has served the U.S. Air Force, both in and out of uniform. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chrissy Best/Released)
 
Nostalgically, Brewer recalled a time when a younger version of himself made the decision to serve his country. It was 1985 and "We Are the World" was helping to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia, while Marty McFly was preparing to go Back to the Future. Coincidentally, Brewer said his time in uniform seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. 
"I love working for the U.S. Air Force. I've done it for so long I really don't want to go anywhere else or work anywhere else."


"I was 24 years in the Air Force, both man and boy," Brewer said. "My first career field was Aerospace Ground Equipment. I spent nearly 11 years doing that before retraining into Public Affairs. I did that for the next 13 years."

When it came time for Brewer to retire he set his sights toward the future. The question lingered whether he would choose to remain a communicator or return to a life on the flightline. It was a decision that did not require much consideration.

"I know what I'm doing here, I know what is expected of me and I know what people are looking for when they transit through Fairford," Brewer said, as his hand motioned across the concrete vista. "You know, if they need AGE I bring it to them. If they need me to wave them in, I wave them in. Whatever they need, I'm here to do."

He paused and looked down at his clothes, as if for a second he expected to see a camouflage pattern and combat boots.

Dennis Brewer, 422nd Air Base Group aerospace ground technician, talks about his appreciation and respect for today's Airmen while waiting to marshal an aircraft at RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, June 5, 2014. Brewer said he misses the time he spent in uniform and would gladly go back and do it all again. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chrissy Best/Released)
 
"You know, I miss it," he said, with a note of sadness in his voice. "I miss going on all the deployments and being down in places like Turkey and Germany, and all over the world. It really was fantastic."

Brewer said his time as an Airman wasn't always seen through rose-colored glasses. As with any career, he said there were good days and bad days.

"On one of the first assignments I ever went on, I ended up in Saudi Arabia," he said. "It was three months long and I thought it was horrible. But these guys today are out for six months, nine months, maybe as long as a year. My hat goes off to them."


 
His praise for today's Airmen doesn't end with deployments. As an AGE technician at Fairford, for the past four years, Brewer has seen countless Service members come through, all sharing a common element.

"They do a phenomenal job," he said, proudly. "I see it all the time when I'm out here working with the trans-alert people. These young Airmen are crew chiefs on C-5's and C-17's, and are absolutely amazing."

Some days, Brewer said, he wishes he was still out there in uniform, working side-by-side with the Airmen. Most days, he looks back on his decision to enlist with fondness, and a hint of regret.

Dennis Brewer, 422nd Air Base Group aerospace ground technician, smiles after marshaling an aircraft to its parking spot on the flightline at RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, June 5, 2014. Brewer, who spent 11 years as an AGE technician, followed by 13 years as Public Affairs specialist, returned to his first career after retiring from active duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chrissy Best/Released)

"I wish I could have stayed longer, actually. But, that wasn't meant to be. Everyone's go to move on. One day, you too will be out of the uniform."
"Do it all over again," he asked himself. "Yeah, I would do it all over again - gladly, in a heartbeat. My life is good now. I enjoy doing what I do, but if I could go back and start all over again I certainly would. And I would do it a little differently, because the fact is I really didn't appreciate the Air Force for what it was when I was doing it. I look back now and see that clearly."

Brewer smiled again as the C-17's rear door opened and uniformed Airmen began unloading cargo and pallets. He sighed, glancing briefly at his clothes one more time.

"I had a great 23 years," he said. "I wish I could have stayed longer, actually. But, that wasn't meant to be. Everyone's go to move on. One day, you too will be out of the uniform."
 

Dennis Brewer, 422nd Air Base Group aerospace ground technician, marshals a C-17 Globemaster III to its parking spot at RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, June 2, 2014. Brewer, who served 24 years as an active duty Airman, said he would go back and do it all over again in a heartbeat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chrissy Best/Released)