You’re right where you need to be

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ryan Sparks
  • 319th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

If I told you I gave up beignets, Po’boys, gumbo and Louisiana for hockey, lutefisk, and six months of winter in North Dakota, you’d probably question my mental state.

                A month after arriving to technical training, I was notified that Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana would be my first assignment. As Ohio natives, my wife and I were less than thrilled about the long, hot, humid summers so I looked into other available options. Left with a choice between Barksdale, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota; and Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, we chose Grand Forks.

                Five years later, I am still here, but I finally have a new assignment. My family and I are incredibly excited for this new opportunity, and we are happy that our time here was a little longer than anticipated. Since finding out, I have had time to reflect on my experience at Grand Forks and I realize that it was everything I needed for my career and it took word of a new assignment for me to come to that realization. My new position is typically meant for people with more experience than I currently have and although it was not originally part of my career plan, I feel prepared because of what I learned here.

                It took word of a new assignment to finally realize how much I’ve grown here. I was knocked down, forced to learn humility and given more responsibility than I ever expected this early on in my career. I sometimes felt burnt out, but I was blessed with an incredible support system. An integral part of that support system was Senior Airman Elijaih Tiggs. He and I would often talk about life and career goals. He really put my upcoming move into perspective for me when he quoted a mentor of his saying, “The right thing at the wrong time is a curse”. At that moment, I truly understood that while I may have wanted to leave, I needed to be here.

                So why did I need to be here? First, I needed to learn how to be married. My wife and I had no one when we arrived and had to rely on one another through a lot of trials. Next, I had to learn how to set aside pride and understand the importance of humility. It took a little administrative discipline and a lot of mentoring from the best supervisor I could have asked for in Senior Master Sgt. Amanda Callahan. Finally, it was learning leadership and how to make up for what I lacked in experience with hard work. As a fairly new Staff Sergeant, I was tasked with filling the role of Public Affairs Superintendent for what was supposed to be a couple of months. For 10 months, it was my responsibility to ensure my office ran smoothly and seven Airmen were properly cared for. I learned the importance of finding answers and using the resources around me to take care of my people.

                I wish I could go back to day one and recognize that I was right where I needed to be. I spent so much time looking for the next opportunity, I missed the fact that I was in an important part of my life and career. Every boss, supervisor, base and job is a learning opportunity. You are right where you need to be at that moment in time. The key is to understand the why behind it. Ask yourself these things:

  1. Why am I here?
  2. What can I learn?
  3. What is this preparing me for?

It may take leaving to get your answers, but understanding that there is always a reason will help open your mind to more opportunities. I learned so much here, but I could have learned even more if I understood the “why” a lot earlier in my career. I am leaving Grand Forks with more memories than I could have ever imagined. I learned how to be a better husband to my wife. I became a father and learned that everything I do means more now because of my children. I made lifelong friends at work and in the community. I learned how to be an Airman. I couldn’t have asked for a better assignment and Grand Forks will always have a special place in my heart, regardless of how often I complained about wanting to leave. I’m determined to take this mindset with me during the next phase of my career with the understanding that I am always right where I need to be.