SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)
Enlisted performance reports have the power to affect an Airman’s career. For one Airman, an EPR had the power to change how he saw his life.
Staff Sgt. Preston Moten, a 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment schedule and training monitor, said the rating from his first EPR made him realize it was time to straighten up and listen to the positive people around him.
Moten’s life before he joined the Air Force set the tone for his first year as an Airman; he said there weren’t many leaders or positive mentors around as he grew up. Instead, he was surrounded by toxic individuals.
“They were all the wrong people, telling us kids to do all the wrong things,” Moten said.
Even at home, he could not escape the toxicity.
As a child, Moten said the gifts he received for the holidays would be taken to a pawn shop within a few days because his parents needed the money for something else. When he was about 16 years old, Moten’s grandparents discovered his parents’ addiction to crack cocaine and removed him completely from the situation.
His grandmother attempted to guide his life in a more positive direction, but Moten said he wasn’t ready to accept the advice yet.
When his girlfriend became pregnant with his daughter, Moten said he took a good look around. He noticed that many of the children around him were not being raised by their fathers because the men were often in jail, in prison or dead. Then Moten thought about what he wanted for his daughter.
“I know what it’s like,” he said, referencing his difficult youth. “I didn’t want her to go through that.”
Moten said he didn’t want to be like those other fathers. Instead, he enlisted in the Air Force to be a better role model for his daughter and to get her away from the destructive environment he once grew up in.
Like his past, his first year in the Air Force was full of trouble.
Staff Sgt. Trevor Smart, a 20th EMS AGE craftsman, said he remembered one distinct mistake Moten made while bringing in a piece of equipment off a maintenance line.
“He knocked a bomb load truck off of jack stands and it spun toward me and another guy,” Smart said. “That’s the day he found out everything in AGE is a potential hazard to a life.”
Moten said he was never taught to act professionally before, so his reactions to people were far from reflecting Air Force standards.
“He did not have the attitude of an Airman in the Air Force yet,” Smart said. “He had that thought process of ‘If I don’t get it right, somebody will pick up after me.’ When he reacted or talked to anybody ... he responded the incorrect way.”
Immaturity led to discipline issues and paperwork.
“The paperwork didn’t set in with me,” Moten said. “What did set in to me was my EPR.”
The rating Moten was given on his first EPR finally shocked him out of his stubborn attitude. It made him realize, compared to the other Airmen, he was not only far from the best, but did not reach the standard expected of him. Now he was ready to not only hear what the sergeants around him were saying, but to listen and act on it. He wouldn’t let failure be an option.
“People like them, the sergeants, worked on me,” Moten said. “They’ve got gray hairs because of me. They said ‘We see something in you.’ I didn’t even see it in myself.”
Moten changed the trajectory of his family with a new determination to be the best.
“His attitude toward pretty much everything changed,” Smart said.
One step Moten took to change himself was disassociating with the negative people back in his hometown. He said he saw that many of those people were doing the same things year after year with nothing better in their future. By doing better, he said he believed he could be an example that would encourage them to challenge themselves.
Too many people doubted his capabilities when he was younger, telling him what he couldn’t become, said Moten. Now, he uses his past to help local youth realize their true potential; he coaches youth football and basketball.
“I coach because I love it,” Moten said. “I judge myself by how I help others reach their potential.”
Moten doesn’t just help youth, but also the Airmen around him.
“His goal is to further his education and show his daughter that he can be a better role model,” Smart said. “He’s been pushing all of our Airmen to do the same. He likes to do counseling sessions with them and tell them the benefits of having an education.”
Moten is setting a standard for himself to also do great things.
Currently pursuing his Bachelors of Science in computer information systems, Moten said he hopes to complete his master’s degree before he reaches 10 years in service.
Although furthering his education is one of his goals, it’s not his only one. He said his ultimate goal is to own a clinic for troubled youth where they can gather to listen to speakers, find mentors and learn a trade.
“I don’t see a limit on my future,” Moten said. “I can be anything I want to be.”