U.S. Air Force Graduation. Impressed, No Less!

Think GQ, with a slice of selfless personality…


I wanted to write a blog about my visit to San Antonio but there was no way that I could put the good times into a single blog without it becoming a dissertation for a Doctorate. So, I’m going to break it down and give the different subjects their correct dues.


I watched my girlfriend graduate from the U.S. Air Force Basic Military Training course at Lackland military base in San Antonio and was able to experience an extreme level of pride in her achievement. An achievement clothed and presented in grandeur, a massive sense of self-achievement with a polished finish that gleamed in the Texas sunshine. Watching 735 graduates parade and move with purpose was a sight that could have instilled awe into the most doubting of hearts. Having been on both sides of a graduation ceremony, and understanding the work and effort that goes into producing one, I am currently at a point where superlatives really fail to contain the experience.

The graduation ceremony is broken down into 2 parts, over 2 days. The Airman’s Run, with receiving of graduation coin, on the first day and the Graduation Parade, done in parade dress, on the second day. I really appreciated how proud of the graduates the Training Instructors were and how they displayed it. Professional yet personable.

The Airman’s Run threw me off. I wasn’t expecting it. I checked in with the Visitor’s Center of Lackland military base and was told that I was to be at a briefing the next day for 0700. “Wait… What?! I’m not graduating. What’s the with the 0500 wake-up time?!” Anyway. After a struggled start to my morning, I met with Beth’s parents and we sat and listened to a briefing that introduced families to the family of the U.S. Air Force, gave us information of how hard the new airmen had worked and told us, about a thousand times, that the camera crew would be taking pictures and videos of the next two days! (Personal joke!)
The briefing was a good ice-breaker and got the families of the new airmen as hyped as the individuals that were about to make the run, in front of families that hadn’t seen them in almost 8 weeks, wanting to demonstrate the hard work, dedication and regimenting that had been endured for said period. In my mind, I think I said, “Woah! This is deep!” at least 100 times!

We were ushered outside into an arena setting and eventually saw, in the distance, a few people mustering into position. They weren’t our people. They happened to be other trainees but the sight of them raised the atmosphere of the expectant crowd and, I can’t lie. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw next, keeping in mind that my experience of a graduation ceremony, for the Royal Air Force, back in 2003, contained around 100-150 graduates.
As several squadrons of graduates came flowing around the corner, each chanting its own squadron mantra, I think I was only able to get out, “Wow. That’s a lot of people.”! The procession of personnel seemed never-ending and you could hear the pride and gusto in EVERY voice as the new airmen coursed through the spectators, some focused dead ahead, retaining military bearing. Others side-eyeing the crowd, looking for family, suddenly lighting up when they spotted their supporters. I can only liken the atmosphere to how I feel before a race. I wanted to break ranks and join in with the run! As Beth ran past, she stayed looking ahead but, as soon as she heard the familiar voices in the crowd (Actually, I think it was her mum. Yeah. Definitely her mum, bursting ear drums with proud emotion and vocal applause!), her face changed to one of relieved excitement, eyes wide, yet still focused on the job at hand. The pride was so deep, I think I could have shed a tear if I wasn’t so awe-struck by this momentous occasion. In my head, I could only really think, “That’s my woman!”
The run course looped around, away from the crowd, and came back for a second pass in the opposite direction. Airmen had spotted family and family had spotted airmen and those that weren’t spotted definitely heard. Pride and self-achievement sky-rocketed for the second pass. This time, tears of joy were mixed in. There’s a certain part of the heart that gets touched when you see someone expressing pride, yet humility, in an achievement to the point they shed a tear. You could sense something inside wanting to burst out of each and every person running by. On the second pass, Beth ran with a noticeable increase of stride length and bounced that much higher in her stride. Remarkable. Simply remarkable. Cheers and rapturous applause all around. Moments like that just don’t happen often. I wish I could find the vernacular and vocabulary to put feelings into words as my fingers fly across this keyboard!

Following the run, there was a procession that included the receiving of the graduation coin and a naturalization ceremony for two of the graduates. One from the Democratic Republic of Congo and one from Poland. This parade was carried out in ABUs (‘Combats’, for those not familiar with the acronym).
What stood out to me most about this parade (Besides Beth, of course!) was the band. Beth marched with them, playing the trumpet (Yeah, she’s gifted like that!).
The band did not consist of a regular USAF marching band. The band was made up of the very graduates that enlisted 8 weeks prior! Man, if that isn’t an achievement. If that isn’t promotion of something special in itself, I really don’t know what is! These students went through the rigours of Basic Military Training AND fit in band practice. I’m just going to leave it at “WOW!”. I was speechless. Proud but speechless!
735 airmen, from many age groups and social demographics, proudly marched to their allocated spot on a sprawling parade area, behind a long line of honorary graduates. The cold breeze that laughed through the stadium seating just couldn’t cool the hearts of pride that beat behind warm, beaming smiles. During moments of silence, the proverbial pin-drop would have been delayed, the atmosphere was that charged.
When the parade came to a close, the new airmen waited in formation for families that descended like chariots of fire to whisk them away in a flurry of hugs, kisses and tears of joy. 8 weeks could have felt like 8 years at this point. The waiting crowds inched ever closer as the dismissal seemed to last a lifetime! Without doubt, these moments can’t be described. They can only be experienced.


The fun times and bonding that followed are for another blog. Needless to say, though, I couldn’t help but feel like one proud boyfriend, witnessing the changes in demeanour and character. It’s impressive to see how a personality changes when launched from a different perspective. I know Beth’s parents would agree.

The Graduation Ceremony was more formal. There was no hype and the simple fact is, hype wasn’t needed. Graduation ceremonies don’t need them. They bring with them their own level of swagger. The difference between the two ceremonies, as The Riddler would say, was “Showmanship”. ABUs made way for Blues parade dress. Belt buckles and buttons all lined up. Not a single thread out of its place. Think GQ, with a slice of selfless personality. It’s amazing to see individuals strut their stuff in pride, with enough humility demonstrated to show that their special show is part of something much bigger.
In the stands, there was a little more comfort than the previous day. The sun warmed the breeze that, this time, chose to lend its support to the onlookers with a gentle brush over close-fitted collars of those wearing dress shirts. This could have been any day in early spring. How apt for those about to experience this new beginning of such an illustrious career.
Again, the band stole the show for me. I’m probably biased because Beth was in the band but that’s just too bad. Deal with it! On top of that, though, I still thought it was absolutely tremendous to present three musical movements, learned in only three weeks, on top of the rigorous regimen already being undertaken. The band definitely got, and still get, my standing ovation. *salutes*
I wasn’t able to make out the aircraft that gave us a fly over but, from my limited plane-spotting knowledge, it seemed to be a Hawk. But don’t quote me on that. The fact is, as with any ceremonial fly-over, that single moment in time wraps all emotions, being felt by those in the crowd and those on parade, in to a perfect package for one’s memory. Thanks for which can only be demonstrated through a proud smile or single tear of joy. If I summed up the entire graduation in two words, it would be Pride and Patriotism.

The key part of the ceremony was when the graduates marched along the Bomb Run. A distance which seemed to be about 200m (650ft) or so. 735 proud, brand new airmen, marching along a concrete walkway, in perfect formation, giving “eyes right” salutes to the Commanding Officer and other dignitaries, under clear command from the Military Training Instructors. I can’t even lie. I could have enlisted on the spot at that moment!

Drill, for the USAF is very different from what I’m used to, coming from a British military background, where arms are locked out and swung to shoulder height when marching and graduation is done with Rifle Drill. It took some getting used to but, within the context of my experience, differences can never be wrongs. I think EVERY airman that graduated should be extremely proud and give themselves a pat on the back and the Military Training Instructors and Drill Sergeants need to do the same. Ceremonies like this just aren’t put together overnight. The spectators and families were also treated with the utmost regard by base personnel, both involved with the parade and otherwise. I was definitely taken aback by the heightened professionalism and politeness that I came across. I’m either going to have to enlist or catch an invite from someone else because I’d LOVE to experience it all over again!

Amid the pomp and ceremony, soaked up by my clearly sponge-like senses, I was there to share a moment of pride for only one person. I don’t think I can count how many times I told her how proud of her I was and, no matter how many times I told her, it never felt old or cliché. I’m not sure the achievement has sunk into Bethanie’s psyche just yet but she definitely outdid herself with this one. *raises glass* Here’s to my special woman, doing special things!

One Day, We’ll See It’s Us And Not Them…

“I want a reality based on how I feel now, and I shouldn’t have to work or wait for it.” Don’t we associate this behaviour with toddlers? What does that say about our current state of social development?

I was reading an article, found in The Guardian, speaking of the levels of pollution humans are causing to the depths of the ocean. A place we know less about than the surface of the moon. A can of Spam and a can of Budweiser among contents discovered on the slopes leading down towards the Sirena Deep. Just like space, we don’t even need to be there to demonstrate how destructive we are as a species.

You know, I really find it mind-boggling at times, how much time we spend and to what extent we go to point the finger at each other, blaming each other for not being allowed to live out our feelings as reality. “I should be allowed to do this”, “I should be allowed to say that”, “I should be allowed to be this way” and “I should be allowed to be that way”, and the whole time we spend pointing the finger at someone else, we contribute to the destruction of this place we are supposed to call home. To the point, we are damaging and polluting places of beauty we’ll never actually get to see with our own eyes. Maybe we need to build walls around ourselves. Not to keep destruction out, but to keep destruction in and contained.

We talk of peace but spend billions on the perfecting of nuclear weapons. We blame people coming in for our problems and then have the audacity to reside, unwanted, in their countries. All the while boasting of of how great our country is and how great we are as people, while those we speak to look on and wonder how that’s possible when our message is delivered from the safe end of a rifle. We spend billions on band-aid fixes to ever-growing problems, like pollution, because global extinction shouldn’t be a thing to stop us having what we want. As time marches on to an inevitable end, the majority of society live with their heads in the sands of their own perceived happiness because the enjoyment of here and now is more important than the survival of those around us and the generations that will follow. Our support for good causes always seems virtual. Taps on pictures and Like buttons and interestingly, the majority of protests we see promoted now have switched from “We need…” to “We want…”

“I want a reality based on how I feel now, and I shouldn’t have to work or wait for it.” Don’t we associate this behaviour with toddlers? What does that say about our current state of social development?

“They” aren’t the problem. “We” are the problem.

Photograph Credit – A container of Spam rests at 4,947 meters on the slopes of a canyon leading to the Sirena Deep in the Mariana trench. Photograph: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration

R.I.P. John Sullivan: 300m Reps Will Never Be The Same!

I can still hear John’s voice resonating across Mile End’s floodlit track, on winter nights. “Ho!” would be the cry, signalling ANOTHER 300m repetition. The group would lurch forwards to speed, assuming a human steam train, as it hurtled through the night, heavy breathing becoming condensation, pluming into the cold air. “Right through!” would signal the end of every repetition, followed by his trademark chuckle and smile. I think I only saw him angry once.
John was easily recognized. Aside of the trademark smile, his pure white hair was never out of place and he was probably the ONLY man to carry fresh-pressed corduroy pants into the year 2000! Along with his everlasting stopwatches and small bounce, when he joked with his athletes, a key part of UK Athletics has disappeared. Judging from the many pleasant comments I’ve seen, and based on what I know of him personally, however, this disappearance is only in body. It’s very clear that his legacy and many pleasant memories still live on. To coin the statement of a good friend of mine, “300m reps, on 60s recovery will never be the same!”

John Sullivan, sir, salute.

Today, In 1996. They Struck Again…

I’ll never forget the moment it happened, as I’m sure no one else can.
I was typing some homework on an electric typewriter that we had acquired somehow. I can’t remember where we got it. I only remember that you could type so many characters and then had to push enter for the line to be printed on the paper. I remember how frustrated I used to get when I made a mistake.

I remember the night being shattered by a noise so loud that my curtains shook and all the car alarms in the neighbourhood were set off. I jumped but can’t remember much else about the moment. It was so sudden, as if it didn’t even happen. Such a surreal moment, where I looked out of my window, staring blankly, not really knowing what to say or do, if there really was anything that could be said or done. That was until I heard one of the neighbours, “Sounded like a bomb…”
“But they’ve been quiet for so long”, I thought.
Realization sunk in like a harsh sobering pill, as a never-ending flood of emergency vehicles made it’s way past my viewpoint of East India Dock Road, London, towards South Quay. The IRA did it again… A friend from school lost his Dad that night…

It’s a strange thought to know you’re a 15 mins walk away from an act of terrorism, aimed at causing mass disruption, with the loss of innocent life worthy collateral for promotion of a cause those lives know nothing about, by a person who knows nothing about the lives he is bringing to a sudden, cold close. It just so happens that this time the collateral wasn’t as bad as it could have been. But this is loss of life. What’s a scale…?

You can find further information about the attack HERE

In the years I’ve spent travelling since then, there is one thing that has stood out to me. Terrorism just isn’t terrorism unless you are deemed to be Muslim or from the Middle East, specifically. Pretty sad, really.
When I have conversations with people I meet now, about the unrest caused, all-round, over the politics of Northern Ireland, I’m met with gasps of shock and horror and “I never knew that!” Then you break the news that terrorism has impacted all continents throughout history, by individuals claiming to be from all slices of the religious pie. The way people respond, as though ‘terrorism’ was added to the world’s vocabulary and dictionaries just yesterday, based on acts of atrocity by men and women from a single geographical place, is just beyond me.

Terrorism is a world problem and it’s going to take nothing less than the world’s people to put an end to it.

BBC News: Dictionary of dead language complete after 90 years

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Dictionary of dead language complete after 90 years – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13715296

This is old news, dating back to June 2011. I still find it fascinating, though.

Sometimes, it’s as if scientific breakthrough today is a regurgitation of ancient news, dating back to pre- ancient Egypt. I ask myself if we ever were the cavemen that some claim. With the Assyrian language brought into context, we are now that much further back into time and still appearing as smart, if not smarter than we are now.

BBC News: Face of Orkney’s St Magnus reconstructed

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Face of Orkney’s St Magnus reconstructed – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-38892669

This area of forensics and DNA really fascinate me. It’s good to be able to add a further dimension when reading historical documents of people and events.

Sometimes, I read about how we lived historically and think about how easy we have it now, with everyone trying to have their feelings catered for. Nowadays, you upset someone and find yourselves unfriended on Facebook. Back then, you were executed with an axe blow to the skull!

Runner Profile – Darren Robinson

I was interviewed regarding my track training. Here is the blog.



Darren took me through a track workout on a brisk February morning, and then we sat and chatted about his running and athletic career and future goals.

Before I tell you about Darren, I should tell you a little thing about me: I was not in the least bit athletic until I hit my early 20s.  So I have no experience with high school or collegiate sports, so the kind of track workout I did with Darren this morning was completely new to me.  We started with a few warmup laps, then went into a five minute AMRAP of pushups, pyramids (going from a plank position to a pike position), and squats. We did about 60 meters of walking lunges that burned enough the cold no longer was a concern. From there, we moved into a few rounds of high-knees, butt kicks, and track skips. Then, we moved on to…

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