Airman carries 'I will not fail' into next phase of career, life

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Heather Heiney
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
I joined the Air Force because I was lost.

And not Colorado lost, where at the very least you can look out your car window and know which way is west. My dreams were so big and seemingly far away that I felt like I was wandering through a fog-shrouded maze.

While I will always be a dreamer, my time in the military has forever changed me and made my path a lot less hazy.

I remember sitting at the airport in Denver with a handful of other people about to begin a journey that was both the same and intensely personal. We each had a business card with the Airman's Creed on the back and we took turns reading it aloud in an effort to be one step ahead. At that moment, all I saw was a string of disconnected words.

Throughout basic training, we recited the creed every day. Over time, I learned that there was a cadence to the creed and every time we said it, "And I will not fail" became louder and more resonant. By the end of basic, those five words were permanently engraved into who I am. At our graduation, my voice reverberated with the hundreds of other brand new Airman and my heart ached with pride for what I had accomplished. Not only had I not failed, for the first time in my life I felt like I had really done something significant.

It can be easy to blame everyone and everything besides myself for an inability to accomplish my goals. But "And I will not fail" convicts me to take responsibility for my success and not accept my own excuses. It's not "I might not fail," it's not "I'll try not to fail" and it's not "If I fail it's not my fault." It's "I will not fail."

I think that if it weren't for my time in the military, I could have spent the rest of my life just drifting from one job to the next, always hoping for something more but never actually taking action to get there. Before I joined the military, I knew that I liked photography and writing but I had no clue where to go from there. Now, after spending my Air Force career in public affairs, I know that telling people's inspirational stories is what I love and photography and writing are just mediums with which to do it.

The Air Force taught me to just show up and get the job done even when I don't feel like it because when the mission depends on you, there's no other choice. Now that I'm transitioning back into civilian life, the mission will still depend on me. Only now, the mission will be a personal one.

And I will not fail.