Career assistance advisor talks FTAC, providing for Airmen
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 24, 2019
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- The transition from technical training to the operational Air Force can be stressful for new Airmen arriving to their first duty station. It’s important for the Airmen to know that there are many resources to reach out to and seek help.
Master Sgt. Harry Abplanalp, 4th Fighter Wing career assistance advisor, is a frontline leader who instructs, leads and advises Airmen at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.
“My purpose is to develop all Airmen, big A,” said Abplanalp. “Regardless of rank, civilian, military, it really does not matter, a lot of the courses we offer are even open to spouses.”
Although Abplanalp uses multiple avenues to help develop Seymour Johnson altogether, his primary way of doing so is through the First Term Airmen Course, a five-day period in which new Airmen receive information they need to acclimate to their first duty station.
“I think most Airmen look back and think of it as an orientation, as a transition from a training environment to an active duty environment,” said Abplanalp. “While that’s not entirely false, it’s vastly more than just ‘Welcome to Seymour’. We’re not just using those five days to give information to Airmen that they need to know, but we’re trying to give them tools and resources to better prepare them for that first year at their duty stations.”
While arriving to a new duty station can be exciting, there can also be trying moments in Airmen’s lives while adjusting to their new lifestyle. Abplanalp’s goal is to make that transition as easy as possible.
“I don’t think we do a good enough job telling our folks, ‘this is not going to be easy’,” said Abplanalp. “It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be challenging; physically, emotionally, sometimes spiritually. How do we help you navigate that first year and come out the other side a stronger Airmen and a stronger human being?”
Most military members face difficulties at some point while serving, and Abplanalp’s career hasn’t been any different.
“My career has not always been stellar,” said Abplanalp. “I made a lot of mistakes, more so than the average Airman. In my NCO years, I failed five PT tests while I was a technical sergeant. You don't find a lot of folks that are still in the Air Force who failed five PT tests because usually you've been discharged. Thankfully I never failed more than one or two in a short timeframe. But I learned a lot through those experiences, and the first thing it taught me about was accountability.”
Along with accountability, Abplanalp learned about resiliency and being able to overcome the struggles that anyone can face.
“Life happens, whether it's struggling with PT, relationships, financial issues, you're going to get that metaphorical punch in the face,” said Abplanalp. “That's just how life works. That particular time in my career taught me nothing's permanent. It's not about what's happened, it's what you do moving forward that defines you.”
Mentoring Airmen was something Abplanalp realized he wanted to continue doing throughout his career.
“The ability to influence another human being and change their life, is the greatest feeling in the world,” said Abplanalp. “As I progressed in the ranks, my whole goal was to get to a position where my sole purpose is to take care of people, whether it be as a flight chief, a first sergeant or a career assistance advisor.”
While Abplanalp finds himself in a position to grow and develop Airmen, he doesn’t want to focus on just that.
“It’s not just my job to help you grow as an Airman,” said Abplanalp. “I want to help you be a better human being because if you can be a better human being, a better person, you're going to be a fine, fine Airman.”