The End of an Era

In the US Air Force, as in all military branches, there is a hierarchy of organizations. To make it easy, I’ll just talk the basics on a base. You have the wing, which is composed of groups. And each group is composed of squadrons, some sorted by job or career field like civil engineering, and others based on the mission, like flying or maintenance squadrons.

Yesterday my first (and last) flying squadron was deactivated. i was in the unit from 2005-early 2009, and then went back there in 2013. I was attached to that squadron for flying until I retired at the end of 2020, even though I was at another base doing a completely different non-flying job.

I have mixed emotions about the deactivation. I definitely don’t feel the “end of an era” sadness that some of my friends and former coworkers feel. I feel no sadness or nostalgic wonderment.

I feel angry still. I feel betrayed. I feel like they can all go fuck themselves. Still. After all these years, there’s no peace in my heart for that place. I picture the offices from 2004 and how they changed by the last time I was there in 2020. And I feel anger and hatred. Those walls know why. They know what happened to me. How I was dismissed, mistreated, pushed aside, disrespected, and ultimately betrayed.

For years I drove to work in tears, with that feeling in the pit of my stomach. Knowing that I was facing another 8 hours of sadness and misunderstanding. Realizing that I was nothing but trash to these people. Just a stepping stone for someone else’s career. Too nice to be important. But the person that everyone, sometimes even the COMMANDER knew they needed to get their job done.

And like a fucking fool I gave and I gave and I gave until I BROKE. Until I was a shattered zombie, walking around with dead eyes and a soulless shell surrounding me, the paper thin shell was the only protection between me and the rest of those soulless assholes. I just didn’t learn. I just didn’t ever look out for myself. I never told anyone what I wanted or needed. I did what I was told, I filled the gaps in silently until the mission went on seamlessly, with me holding all the unseen, thankless bullshit in my own hands. FOR THE GOOD OF THE TEAM.

The first time I left, it took them two weeks to figure out how much I was doing and how much I actually did. Sometimes they contacted me to ask who the point of contact was, or how to do something. After awhile I stopped answering, told them I was too busy. I could no longer do these thankless things for a unit I was no longer in.

While I was gone, I forgot how much they had hurt me. When my three years away were ending, I was looking forward to getting back. To being part of the flying world again. Like an idiot, I counted down the days until I could go “home.” But it was an abusive home.

As soon as I finished the flying training, I was back. Sent up to the second floor to do a job that belonged that should’ve belonged to someone much less senior. But I was an outcast up there. My friend told me that a few weeks after I got there. “You and I are the only ones of our rank up here. Have you noticed that?” Well fuck, he was right. “They don’t think we can do what the rest of them are doing downstairs. So we are hidden up here.” It wasn’t long until he was called upon to move downstairs.

A year later they came for me. “We need you downstairs. But you also need to keep an eye on your office upstairs. Fill the gaps, we have lost people.” Like a fool, I pretended this was a promotion. It wasn’t. It was just me doing what I did best, filling the gaps and doing the unseen, unappreciated bullshit. The only different this time was that someone saw what I was doing. He worked hard to get me noticed. He brought me along on his coattails and for once, I was in a better place. It was a brief happy time there. A few months of joy where I was appreciated and looked after. But with that support came a request. Someone in another squadron wanted me for my skills. And off I went, happy that I was noticed.

That was also not a promotion. That place was a huge failure, bigger than all failures before. I had a nervous breakdown, I started therapy, and I made decisions for the good of my family, not the Air Force. And I was punished for the rest of my career for that. And sent back to this hellish squadron.

The worst of the torture started then. The commander pretended he was supporting me, while stabbing me in the back. He told everyone who would listen that I was washed up and I had no skills. I had stumbled and fallen in my previous job. He started screaming in my face when he failed at HIS job, even though I was still doing exactly what he wanted me to do.

I gave up. I pictured my own demise every day. I wondered who would even care. I planned it and wrote notes and bought supplies. I was so broken that everyone trampled me. I had nothing. I wanted nothing. I still remember those days and how every day was bleak and gray. There was no sunshine in my life, even in the middle of summer. Even when I was with people I knew cared about me.

I missed so much in that space. I missed some of the kids’ biggest milestones. I missed the sadness Boy #1 was carrying. I missed the pain my parents were in, watching me break into tiny pieces. I missed myself. But I am grateful that my brain was mostly shut down and the memories are bleak. I would not want to remember those dark days more clearly than I do. It’s like a dark haze from a dream world covers the memories so that I can barely make out those times.

So no, I am NOT sad to see that squadron deactivated. Maybe I can finally find peace and quiet now that it no longer exists as I knew it. It’s just a page in a history book. The people that suck are still out there, but they have no control over me now. I don’t have to see them or interact with them. And I have slowly made sure that they can’t access me. I will not be friends with anyone from that time that was hurtful. There was no team back then and I don’t need to sacrifice myself any longer.

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