Raise a hand to volunteer

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jeremy Roberts
  • 56th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
When you hear the word volunteer, you usually associate it with fundraisers, Red Cross organizations, community projects or base functions. We do not usually think about the work itself.

From the time I entered the Air Force I remember being told never to raise your hand to volunteer until you knew if it was something you wanted to do. I followed that advice for a little while until I realized how horrible it was. It is true that if you raise your hand, it may be for something unpleasant, but there is also a chance it could lead to something great, even if at the time it did not seem so. Most of my great experiences have come from raising my hand. The first time was entering the Air Force.

While in the Air Force I have volunteered on numerous occasions. The time that changed my perception on volunteering was when a boss asked for volunteers. He needed one and when one of my fellow Airmen raised his hand he was released early. He then asked for a second volunteer and that person (me) had to stay late to babysit an aircraft. From that point on, I raised my hand first. I ended up getting to go home early and stay late, but the reward was worth the downside.

This is also how I was able to be security forces for nine months after Sept. 11, 2001. It was five days on and one day off working 14 hour days. There were good and bad days, but if I had the chance, I would do it again. It was one of the best experiences of my career. It's not every day you get to do another job knowing that you get to return to yours. Raising my hand did not stop there.

When I got back to being a maintainer, we were less than 50 percent manned. Supervision was always asking for a volunteer to change shifts to help out. After every roll call they asked for a body, and I would tell the flight chief I could make the switch. During a three-week period, I switched shifts five times bouncing around between mid, swing and day shift. I had no sleep schedule, but as is often the case, a silver lining presented itself. At the end of this three-week period, supervision came to me and asked what shift I wanted to be on. I said I wanted swing shift. I was then put on swing shift and left there for two years. The normal time to be on this shift was three to six months because they want to rotate people. I was able to work the best shift untouched for two years because I raised my hand. The Air Force has a lot to give, but if want the most out of your career, you have to give as well. This also applies to stepping out of your comfort zone.

I once swore I would never do a job that required me to speak in front of people. It was during my first tour as a bioenvironmental engineer when the opportunity to be a tech school instructor came up. Even though it was not something I wanted to do, I submitted an application and waited to see what happened. I ended up getting selected and taught there for four years before coming to Luke. It was the best experience of my Air Force career to date. I have a new-found love of teaching. Being able to see the light bulb go on in a student's eyes and knowing that you are the reason they learned something, is a great feeling.

When it comes to volunteering, you may not always like what you are doing but in the end you will have experiences that are priceless. You will likely get the first chance when good tasks come up or rewarding opportunities arise. When you are the one that always volunteers, regardless of the task, it makes it easier to be the one selected for the opportunities everyone else wants. If you are always willing to help your unit when they need it, good things will come your way.