DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- When someone finds out that I used to be a Military Training Instructor (MTI), I am always asked the same two questions: “Did you enjoy it?” and “Was it hard?” And I always give the same response: “It was the hardest job that I ever loved.” Now that I have returned back to my original career field as a Civil Engineer (CE), I have shared my story countless times and regardless of who I speak to I am always keenly aware of the skills I have acquired as an MTI which provided me with a unique experience and perspective to be an effective leader today.

Reporting into my new squadron on my first day at Basic Military Training (BMT) was a true eye-opening experience. I wanted to make a great first impression so I put on a new set of ABUs and boots. As I walked through the squadron, I could hear the roaring of instructors correcting trainees. After some searching, I located my sponsor, TSgt Holliday, in the Dining Facility at the notorious “Snake Pit.” I introduced myself, causing TSgt Holliday to look up from her plate with a fleeting glance, after which she immediately looked back down and calmly asked, “TSgt Baines, what do we do on Mondays?” Not knowing what she meant I stated I was not sure. “We wear blues on Monday…goodbye!” she said and just like that, I was sent home on my first day as an instructor for not maintaining standards. That moment set the tone for the next four years.

Working in an environment filled with “Type A” personalities, there was not a day that passed where I was not challenged to be better than I was the day prior. The meticulous honor of transforming civilians into Airmen perpetuated an incredible sense of pride in me that reinvigorated my passion to serve. Before leaving the CE career field, I had fallen into a stagnant routine getting my work assignment for the day, completing it, and going home; no more, no less. It was not until I was thrust in into an environment that was filled with the “Top 10%” of each career field that I began to want to improve. That atmosphere was infectious and instilled in me a drive to want to be better. This same drive enables me to humbly reach out to my fellow Airmen for assistance in acquiring the experiences that I missed during my four year hiatus.

Have you ever felt like you were not living up to your potential but didn’t know quite how to achieve it? Being an Engineer, I had the mindset that all I had to do was work; I never considered seeking out any self-improvement opportunities my leadership “suggested” for me, primarily due to a lack of self-confidence. But as an MTI, I realized quickly that there is no room for mediocrity. Stepping outside my comfort zone forced me into situations that evolved my sense of self-worth and taught me the true meaning of responsibility. Today, I see challenges as opportunities to succeed; a mindset that likely never would have taken root had I not taken the leap as an MTI.

With the creation of the Developmental Special Duty platform, completing a tour outside of one’s career field has many Airmen concerned. However, for those that are selected, all I would tell them is to embrace it. The experiences they gain cannot be quantified, nor overlooked. Serving in a developmental position will test you every single day; there is no doubt about that. But, as it did for me, it will show you what you are truly capable of and that will resonate not only throughout your career but throughout your life as well.

Remember, no matter what the task…Engineers Lead the Way!