From left, Erik Wineland, AEDC’s mission support logistics manager and a retired Air Force chief master sergeant, discusses career options and provides other advice to Graham Brandon, with AEDC’s base services, during a break in the young man’s shift at Café 100 in the A&E Building. (Photo by Jacqueline Cowan)
7/11/2012 - ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- When Graham Brandon came to work at AEDC's base services two years ago, he already knew that joining the Air Force might be a path he wanted to take.
"About eight months ago, I started talking to Erik Wineland," recalled the 22-year-old Manchester native. "I was asking about his experiences in the Air Force. I've always been interested ever since I was a little kid."
Wineland, AEDC's mission support logistics manager, is a retired Air Force chief master sergeant whose "first" career spanned 23 years.
"Graham is a conscientious, free-spirited young person searching for an opportunity to contribute to the world around him in a way that brings success and security now and into the future," Wineland said. "Graham's main questions revolved around jobs and the process surrounding getting into a specialty that was right for him.
"Since the pros and cons of the Air Force are different for everybody, we took a little time to get to know each other first. I was immediately impressed at his commitment to his cause when he drove the 67 miles to my house just so we could sit and formulate a way forward."
Brandon was home schooled, which he said was a good experience.
"I love history, biology," he said. "Math wasn't my favorite. English was alright, but history was by far my favorite [subject]."
Learning about conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to the ongoing war in Afghanistan, always held his attention. Joining the military was always on his horizon.
"It's always been something that I've wanted to do," Brandon said. "I made the decision about six months ago to join. I've been working really hard at getting some things cleared up. I had to do some extra schooling so I could get a higher rank going in. I scored real high on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). I signed up for six years as an Air Traffic Control unit officer - I'm excited."
The ASVAB is a multiple-aptitude battery that measures developed abilities and helps predict future academic and occupational success in the military. It is administered annually to more than one million military applicants, high school and post-secondary students.
Brandon, who originally worked at AEDC's golf course, is currently working at Café 100 in the Administration and Engineering Building, which brings him into contact with a lot of people.
"I really enjoy the people - the interactions I have," he said. "I get along with everyone that I've encountered."
Patrick Jackson, AEDC's deputy chief of services, quickly took note of Brandon's work ethic and social skills.
"After meeting Graham I was very impressed," he said. "He's one of those employees who does what he's suppose to do. You don't have to watch over his shoulder. When I heard that he was going to enlist in the Air Force, I knew it was the right move. His drive and love for life will benefit both himself and this great country."
Wineland recalls the times he met with Brandon to discuss the young man's future.
"We talked about the things he has accomplished in his life up to this point and made the distinction between those achievements that 'had to be done' and those that 'he enjoyed getting done,'" Wineland said. "We then drew a comparison between where I was in my life at his age and where I am now. This was important because just because the path I chose was right for me, it does not mean that it is right for him. On that day, we agreed that we would be creating a path rather than completing a checklist."
Brandon also sought out the advice of Capt. Alex Henning, a test technology project manager for AEDC's Test Technology Branch.
"Graham is friendly, competitive and looking for a challenge," Henning said. "He inquired about basic training, and I told him he will have no problems with it due to his attitude and athleticism. I gave him the standard advice - you will get yelled at regardless of what you do, so don't let it bother you."
Henning was impressed with Brandon's choice of a specialty in the Air Force.
"Beyond basic training, Graham will be training to be an air traffic controller (ATC), which is a great career field," Henning said. "The ATC profession is an incredibly competitive, challenging job. Being a veteran and an ATC gives you a hiring preference if you want to continue in the field after military service. He also mentioned the possibility of special operations. The air traffic control school is a stop on the combat controller pipeline, so that could also give him a leg up. Either way, Graham has made a solid plan - he's the kind of person we need controlling airspace."