The USAF: A direct flight to his future


Provided by Tyler Houston

Sr. Tyler Houston (third from the left) participates in a physical challenge before swearing in

Click, click, click, delete. Sr. Tyler Houston’s eyes follow his cursor as he hovers over hundreds of emails from colleges across the state: Michigan State University,  Trine University, Hope College, and dozens of others. Email after email tossed into the digital trash can. 

   Life after high school seems to be a one-size-fits-all plan: graduate high school, attend college, get a job. This mold works for some students but not all. 

   Houston has decided to take advantage of opportunities outside of a typical secondary education. This summer, the United States Air Force (USAF)–a program that boasts of its high standards and intense discipline–will become Houston’s home. 

   Houston has always been a motivated student, determined to get ahead by participating in the early college program. However, after a tough year due to COVID, he decided to drop out of the program.

   “Last year, my junior year, I was in the early college program. But, due to COVID, I decided to drop out. It was a lot on me; it was a lot on my parents.” Houston said. 

   After dropping the program, his parents made a remark about joining the military; Houston considered the possibilities. “I was like, ‘You know what, that’s not a bad idea because that’s free college right there,’” he said.

   Houston’s mother, Tamara Sharpe-Houston, said she never expected Houston to join the USAF. “It had always been my expectation that Tyler would go to college directly after high school; I’ve seriously been planning for it since he was born,” Sharpe-Houston said. 

   Despite her surprise, Sharpe-Houston believes that going into the USAF is an even better plan for Houston. “My prayer is that Tyler will gain discipline and leadership skills in the military that will help him navigate adulthood,” Sharpe-Houston. 

   When Houston looked to his future, he recognized that the conventional college experience may not be the perfect fit. Luckily, his family was in touch with Technical Sergeant Adrianne Boman, who informed them about other opportunities.

   Boman was Houston’s former neighbor. “His little brothers used to watch my cat when I went out of town. I even met his parents before I met Tyler,” she said.

   Boman’s relationship with Houston’s family was a great help in getting him registered for the USAF. 

   “When Tyler expressed an interest in going to the military, we reached out to her, and before I knew it he was headed to Lansing to take the entry and physical exams,” Sharpe-Houston said. 

   The USAF provides Houston with the chance to choose his future in a way that a typical university does not. 

   Those who enlist are given a choice of over 140 jobs they could be trained for and countless locations they could travel to. In addition, enlisting not only brings experience, but also free medical insurance, dental insurance, education, and gym memberships. 

   Although the USAF offers many tangible benefits, the best benefit, according to Boman, is exposure to specific career fields. 

   “More often than not, employers would like to see not only a degree, but job experience as well. By serving a four year commitment in the Air Force, you’ll get either an associates degree or bachelor’s degree, a steady paying job, and four years of job experience behind your degree,” Boman said.

   By enlisting, recruits gain education and experience which gives them an advantage in competitive job markets. 

   As Houston anticipates the future, he looks forward to the flexibility of the USAF. “How it works is you choose four or six years, and when you are in you can–at any time–change from four to six years or six to four years,” Houston said. 

   Houston will work to earn a college education as well as his place in the Air Force.  He hopes to be given a job in mental health services. “I have always wanted to be some sort of therapist; I am really hoping I can get that job,” he said.

   The USAF offers students a future full of opportunity while also allowing recruited members to make their own decisions. “I got three choices of places where I could get to go–where you get stationed–and I really want to travel the world,” Houston said.

   The abundance of choices have only just begun for Houston.

   “I feel like there’s a whole lot more decision making that you get to make for yourself. I feel like I am really going to enjoy my time there,” he said.

   “The very first step is to make an appointment with a recruiter,” Boman said. If a potential recruit is interested in joining the USAF, he or she will take various physical and mental tests. “If you pass, you get sworn into the Delayed Entry Program (DEP). This is where we work and volunteer together. You stay in the DEP until you leave for Basic Military Training.”   

   Houston’s mother, like most maternal figures, worries for her child. “It’s an emotional process for me,” she said. “While the military has many great benefits, it’s still the military. There is still the potential for him to go to war and be hurt, so I pray about that. But overall, I think he has made a good choice, and I trust that God will keep him safe,” Sharpe-Houston said.

      In the Air Force, no two journeys look exactly alike. While Houston’s journey may not duplicate another recruited student, he looks forward to what’s to come: working, traveling, and self-discovery.

   Although he’s only just beginning this life changing journey, Houston has a piece of advice for any potential recruit. “Do you. Not everyone is built for the Air Force, I am not even sure if I am built for the Air Force yet,” he said. “When I go in, I want to see if it is something I really enjoy and that I want my life to be.”