The Air Force and my American dream

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Willie Manalo
  • 56th Mission Support Group
I immigrated to the United States in 1989 when I was 26 years old. Coming to the United States with English as my second language was very challenging and I was not sure if I would be able to find a stable job. I ended up joining the U.S. Air Force in 1991. I was hesitant about being in the military, but I decided to give it a try after exhausting many other avenues and simply hoped for the best.

My first duty station was Los Angeles Air Force Base. This is where I experienced a significant amount of culture shock as I was overwhelmed by all the different ethnicities present in the Air Force. When I was growing up in the Philippines, the only time I ever saw ethnicities besides my own was in movies or TV shows. Additionally, my exposure to the English language was limited to several professors at various secondary schools and universities. I was, however, always hesitant to speak it because I knew I had poor grammar and an inability to make proper pronunciations.

Communicating was quite a challenge early in my Air Force career and I felt it would be a handicap that would prevent me from furthering my ambitions and achieving my goals in life.

Eventually, I said to myself, "I am having trouble speaking the language now, but I will work hard and try my best to improve, and I believe my hard work will lead to a successful career in the Air Force."

Even though I did not know if I wanted to make the Air Force a career, I decided not to burn any bridges and give it my best effort.

As it turns out, I am set to retire in a couple of months after serving for more than 22 years. I was able to achieve this
by adhering to a few core beliefs.

Hard work, confidence and courage they were and are the essential elements that gave reality to my dreams. I set numerous goals for myself which provided me with focus. These beliefs allowed me to pursue those goals without the fear of failure. I knew that if I kept pushing toward my dreams, I would eventually realize them. Even if something did not work out the first time, it did not matter -- I would eventually get there.

I believe this is important to all Airmen today. We all need to realize that failure is a part of everyday life; however, it is also a learning experience. As long as you keep putting forth the effort, you will be able to achieve what you set out to do. It may not be easy or happen the way you planned it, but things tend to come full circle.

In addition, you cannot let your weaknesses define you. As long as you are able to identify them, you are halfway there to fixing them. The life I have now compared to what I had before is a dream come true made possible through some core beliefs and the Air Force.