Wednesday, January 30, 2013

End Of Another Chapter

This past week officially marked the end of UPT for the Etheridge family. The hubs and his fellow classmates received their wings and officially became pilots in the U.S. Air Force. Pretty neat huh? ;) We were also blessed enough to have family fly all the way in from Georgia to help us celebrate and attend all the fun events the base had planned for the class of 13-04.

This past week was filled with a lot of different emotions for us both as we celebrated the end of a very busy, stressful, and exciting year, while also saying farewell to some of the amazing people we have been blessed to of met because of our time here at Laughlin. After Friday night everyone will begin to go their separate ways as they head off to different forms of training and eventually on to their particular aircraft.

Amidst all of the fun events this past weekend I was able to reflect on our year of UPT, as a married couple. As we were out on the flight line taking photos with fellow classmates and their significant others, I realized how many special and truly precious friendships we have cultivated over this past year and a half. We met some truly amazing people whom we will never forget and created relationships we will hold on to for the rest of our lives.

If there is one truly special part of being at Laughlin it's that you are forced to gain and foster such close relationships in order to maintain some sort of social life. With not much entertainment available in the town your sole source of "weekend fun" comes from hanging out with those that you already spend a ton of time with during the week in the flight room. By luck, we were placed in a class with some particularly awesome people, whom we spent many a weekend hanging out with and passing the time in Del Rio. I am certain that God placed each and every one of these people in our lives for a reason and I know that I am going to miss each of them dearly.

I am so proud of the hubs and our friends that got their wings on Friday! It will be hard to close another chapter and say farewell to our Laughlin family who we've come to love dearly, but I know God has some amazing things in store for us as we move on to our next adventure!

After retreat

Getting those wings ;)

Breaking of the wings

Love this girl. She's been by rock throughout
this adventure!

The other two lovely spouses
of 13-04! I'm going to miss
these ladies!

Fellow T-38ers

Before the banquet

"The Weekend Crew"

I also found this photo from when the hubs commissioned and I was pinning on his shoulder boards. Apparently I am not gifted at "pinning" anything on his uniform. It's always quite the task for me...

The Etheridges

Sunday, January 13, 2013

13-04 Drop Night

For those you that haven't heard the wonderful news yet, we found out on Friday night that the hubs was assigned F22's to Tyndall AFB in Florida for his first flying assignment!! I can't even begin to tell you how excited and joyful we are! This was his #1 choice, followed closely by F-15E's and then F-16's. I can tell you this, we were not expecting this at all. We thought this was a long shot, and would never actually be assigned this dream jet. I can also tell you that this is a HUGE honor. To drop a fighter in the first place is a big deal, and I mean a very big deal which is extremely selective, but to be assigned the F22 is a major honor. I'm not one to brag, but as I feel this is my blog and my viewers can choose to read or not read it I can do so a little every now and then. I could not possibly be more proud of my amazing husband right now. He worked his butt of this past year and his efforts have paid off ten fold.

I remember when we first started dating and he didn't tell me until after we had been together for two months, when I was obviously already head over heels in love with him at the young age of 16, that he wanted to be a pilot. Not only did that idea freak me out, I mean i'd never even considered being a part of the military much less married to a pilot, but the thing I was most weary of was how "dangerous" I thought being a pilot was. Then he preceded to tell me that he didn't just want to be any pilot, but a fighter pilot, an F22 pilot specifically. Like any young girl my mind immediately ran to the movie "Top Gun" and I visualized Tom Cruise riding around on a motorcycle with way too tight pants being a philandering maniac (don't get me wrong, I've come to LOVE that movie and am not hating on it one bit). From the young age of 15 he knew exactly what he wanted to do, something I've always admired in him.

And it's been a long journey to get closer to this dream. I remember the day he received his acceptance letter in the mail to the Air Force Academy. I remember the day he started basic training in Jack's Valley. I remember the day he graduated four looooong and hard years later. I remember the day he commissioned. I remember the day he started pilot training, and then tracked T-38's. Looking back, it has been a long, tough, stressful, and challenging road over the past 8 years for us both to get to where we are. However, it has been worth every second and I wouldn't trade it for anything. We have met some incredible mentors at USAFA and here at Laughlin, we have made and lost close friends, we have grown as a couple, and I can't say that I would want to be anywhere but where I am right now. 

God has blessed us in ways I couldn't even have imagined and I can truly say that I feel very thankful in this moment. He gives and takes away, as I have seen from getting this assignment and losing my sweet sweet mother, all within the past two years. He challenges us in our faith and to trust in him on a daily basis. I can't tell you how much his peace enveloped me over the past few weeks and has shown me that his plan far surpasses what we want for our lives.

Ok, I'm done with all the mushy gushy stuff, so below are some photos from Drop Night as well as a video of the hubs drop! Enjoy ;) I will admit that Friday was probably one of the worst and best days of my life. I thought I was going to explode with anticipation in the last few hours leading up to drop, but obviously it was worth it!  

Yes, this is a bag full of 12 Chick-fil-a sandwiches..
and yes I was ordered asked kindly to pick them up
when I went to San Antonio on Thursday
to pick up some fellow 13-04 girlfriends.
I looked like a huge fatty carrying this thing out
and asking for 11 packs of sauce. The things I do
for those boys!

I love each of these ladies dearly, and could
not have made it through this past year without
them. They are such a true blessing!

Another photo with another member of our
amazing bible study who came to
support us on our big night!! 

Mitchell's hero shot slide!

My initial reaction, disbelief. 

I was a little excited ;)
Now we start another journey as we head off to our next assignment. Just because the hubs was dropped this jet, that doesn't mean he is guaranteed to fly it. It means he has been given the opportunity to fly it. We still have to get through three different types of training courses which include a few flights in the F-16 before we head to Florida. He has to get through all of this training before he is really considered an F22 pilot. Needless to say there is still a long road ahead of us but this is certainly a step in the right direction ;)

*Shout out to my amazing friends Layne, Jenna, and Lindsay for taking photos and video for me! You guys rock!

The Etheridges

Friday, January 11, 2013

Blind Faith

Well, we made it! Tonight is drop night, or the night that we will be finding out our next assignment for  those of you that don't know what drop is! Tonight we will be see where we will be going, or if we will be staying here in Del Rio, and what the hubs job will be for the next few years!

In a previous post I had bared my soul a little and given you all a glimpse into my struggle with understanding and being at peace with this situation. I mean, doesn't this whole thing sound just a little scary, even to those of you that aren't a part of the pilot world? Standing up there in front of a large group of of people to find out the destiny of your career? Yikes! Anyways, for a few weeks back in November I found myself scared to death and beyond stressed about this entire situation. However, over the past month God has placed an AMAZING amount of peace on my heart. He has filled be with hope and happiness, and truly shown me that he will always provide and loves us each so deeply. Not only am I not stressed about tonight, but I am genuinely beyond excited and hopeful, no matter what the outcome. I have come to truly hold on to the truth that no matter what our future holds God has a hand in it and his plans for our lives will far surpass what we feel is "meant to be".

I would also like to thank each and every family member, friend, and even stranger that has given both Mitchell and I support, love, prayer, and kind words over the past few weeks. Even those that do not fully comprehend the situation have offered their sincerest thoughts and prayers to help us through this exciting and anxious time. We could not have gotten through this without each and every one of you, and you know who you are ;) We are so blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people!

With that I will end this post, but don't worry, I will repost this weekend once we find out tonight what's next for the Etheridge family! Stay tuned!

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those that love him, who have been called according to his purpose" - Romans 8:28