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A chance encounter with an AF recruiter leads to a lifetime of memories

  • Published
  • By Candy Knight
  • Fourth Air Force Public Affairs

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- Staff Sgt. Shelby Horn, a personnelist assigned to the 4th Air Force Commander’s Support Staff, never thought her chance encounter with a USAF recruiter would lead to a lifetime of memories. 

Why did you join the Air Force?
“It’s a funny story, but I actually never had any plans to enlist in the Air Force, or any military branch for that matter. One day, I gave a friend a ride to an Air Force recruiter’s office. Well, when the meeting came to an end, the recruiter shifted his focus to me, and asked me, “What are you doing with your life?” I didn’t have an answer for him, and I signed papers to enlist about 30 minutes later.”

Why did you join the Air Force Reserve?
“I ended up separating from active duty when I became pregnant with my first daughter, Taylor. My boyfriend had become my husband, but he was sent to Travis AFB, CA, where he was a C-5 Galaxy crew chief, and I was in Whiteman AFB, MO. We made lots of trips back and forth, but it was pricey, and when I became pregnant, we decided the best move for us was for me to separate and move in with him at Travis. I was able to be a stay-at-home mom for my daughter’s entire first year, which was such a wonderful thing for us, but I had to watch my husband’s career take off while I was at home, and I’ll admit I was jealous! I didn’t expect to miss the Air Force when I left it, but I couldn’t help but miss it. I was watching TV one day and a commercial came on for the Air Force Reserve. I knew there was a Reserve unit at Travis, so I called the number in the commercial and met with the on-base recruiter a few days later. I remember calling my mom and telling her I was going Reserve, and she told me she was surprised I hadn’t done it sooner. Joining the Air Force, and then the Air Force Reserve, were hands down the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

What is your AFSC?
“My duty AFSC is 3F0, Personnelist. My primary AFSC is 3N0, Public Affairs Specialist. Currently I work as a personnelist assigned to the 4th Air Force Commander’s Support Staff where I work NAF Personnel Programs.”

Is this an easy job?
“Working as a personnelist in a CSS at the NAF is unique in that I not only support the 4th AF staff, but I also support all 32,000 Airmen within our NAF, with items that require commander’s review and signature, such as commissioning requests, HYT extensions, and officer promotion boards. I am also the unit security manager, which keeps me busy managing investigations and ensuring our staff has the proper clearances for programs or TDYs. Working in CSS can be very high stress because we have to have an insane amount of attention to detail. A single missed initial box is enough to get a package kicked back from Air Force Reserve Command, and that kick back could be the reason the package doesn’t make it to a board on time. Our actions in CSS directly affect a member’s career, and that is a huge responsibility!”

What lessons have you learned as during your time in CSS?
“The huge thing I’ve learned working in CSS is what higher-level headquarters look for in packages and promotion boards. I will be able to take this knowledge anywhere I go, helping members both under and above me to advance their careers with the best possible outcome.”

What is your favorite part about being in CSS, and why?
“The tools CSS has provided me will be invaluable as I grow within the Air Force Reserve. CSS has helped me to learn what it takes to be a well-rounded NCO and will help me become an even better Senior NCO when the time comes. I am very thankful for that.”

Was Personnelist your first AFSC choice?
“My AFSC while on active-duty was Public Affairs - Photojournalist. I was taught the basics of photography in tech school, and I learned a bit more while at my first duty station, but it wasn’t until my daughters were born that photography took on a whole new meaning for me. Now I’m an avid photographer. I wanted to capture everything, and when my pictures didn’t turn out like I wanted them to, I threw myself into learning everything I could about photography. Tech school taught me camera basics, but I taught myself camera magic.”

What do you mean by ‘camera magic’?
“Photography is purely an artistic outlet for me. It’s my favorite hobby. My house, and the houses of my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, are all filled with photos I’ve taken. The joy I receive from taking photos of my closest family and friends, providing them beautiful images that I know they will cherish for a lifetime, there’s just nothing like it. One of my very favorite things to do is gather up my girls and go out exploring with my camera, photographing them as they explore the world around us. I often joke that the best days of my life were the days my daughters were born, the days I enlisted, and the days I purchased my cameras.”

What was your proudest Air Force career moment?
“My proudest moment in the Air Force was when I won an Air Force Reserve Command Media Award for Layout and Design in 2018. I fell into graphic design on accident while in high school and quickly fell in love with it. Winning a MAJCOM level award for it was solid affirmation that I was capable of doing so much more than I ever gave myself credit for.”

What is it like to work at 4th Air Force?
“Working with 4th AF has been so eye-opening. I’ve gotten to learn how the Air Force Reserve operates at upper level headquarters, and have learned invaluable information about budgets, manning, deployments and training are handled and funneled down to the wings. Outside of the actual job itself – 4th AF is staffed with officers and enlisted members with many, many years of experience under their belts, who themselves are invaluable for information about how the Air Force Reserve works. These men and women have provided me mentorship and guidance in so many different ways, both personally and professionally, and have helped me narrow down goals for my career, and myself going forward. Previously my goals seemed unreachable, but with their help I’ve been able to reevaluate them and come up with new, attainable goals that will help me as I advance throughout my career.”

What do you feel most grateful for in your life?
“I am unbelievably grateful for my daughters Taylor and Sadie. They have taught me so much and have brought me so much joy in their time here on Earth with me. Taylor was my first, and she taught me how to be a mother. Sadie was my second, but she was born 10 weeks early and spent 31 days in a NICU. She taught me patience. It was unbelievably hard spending day in and day out just watching her in an incubator, knowing I was mostly helpless to help her grow, but we both preserved and came out of it stronger. I am so grateful for the lessons they’ve taught me, for the love and laughter they’ve provided me, and I’m even grateful for the occasional frustrations that come with parenting, as well. I’m so grateful to be their mom.”

When you have a tough day, what inspires you to keep going?
“My daughters are the light in my life that keeps me going. They need me, even when I’m tired, or not feeling well, or having a bad day, and they love me regardless. My favorite thing is coming home from work and them running into my arms! I know that no matter what happens in a day, or in a week, month, whatever, my daughters will be there ready for hugs and kisses. And let’s face it, it’s hard to be sad or mad during a dance party with your kids. My kids are always ready with dance parties!”

Has anyone given you advice, either positive or negative, that has stuck with you throughout your career/life?
It’s not really strict advice, but during my time working for Chief Master Sgt. Timothy White and Maj. Gen. Randall Ogden, I learned anyone could be a mentor. Regardless of age or rank, everyone has different thought processes and viewpoints that can provide you different outlooks on different situations. I also learned the importance of appreciation. It takes only seconds to say ‘thank you’ for finishing a project, or to say, ‘I appreciate you,’ but those little words mean the world to the person they are spoken to, and make getting up the next morning to go back that much easier. This is something I will take with me throughout the rest of my career, and my life as well.

Where do you see your Air Force career in the next 5, 10 years?
“Once I got past how terrifying my military training instructor was while in basic military training, I grew a very deep respect for his job. I love the Air Force Reserve and I want to play a part in training the next generation. I’d love to be involved in a Development and Training Flight, and ultimately would love to become a military training instructor myself. I love to teach and who better to teach than my replacements? I feel some of the most important jobs in the Air Force are those of MTIs, MTLs, PME and technical school instructors - Without these people we would not have the well-rounded force we have today, and I want to join those ranks.”

What is your advice to individuals considering joining the Air Force Reserve?
“Ultimately, I say just do it! My friends and family often joke that I should become a recruiter one day because I love to talk to people about the benefits of joining the Air Force Reserve. The beauty of the Reserve is that you are in charge of your career and you can tailor your career any way you want it. I wanted to serve my country, but still have the ability to stay home with my young daughter, and the Air Force Reserve gave me that opportunity as a traditional reservist. I then wanted to serve full-time, but stay close to my family while my children were still young, and the Reserve gave me that opportunity as an ART. Between TRs, ARTs, AGRs, IMAs – There is something for everyone, and the benefits that come with serving in the World’s Greatest Air Force are priceless.”