JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- As the Air Force turns a year older Sept. 18, some of the newest members of the service were asked earlier this month on their basic training graduation day why they decided to be part of the world’s greatest airpower team.
Here’s what they had to say.
Airman Basic Matthew Keeley
, 26, Weymouth, Massachusetts
"I wanted to join the Air Force for the career opportunities. I plan on going into avionics. But not only that, my younger brother is also in and he showed me that there’s a ton of positives to the Air Force. It’s a great place to really achieve your personal goals."
Airman Basic Esmeralda Salinas
, 18, Twin Falls, Idaho
"I want to be a police officer and I thought that this would be a step forward. I’m going into the security forces and I want to serve my country. I feel proud every morning to put on that uniform, and to see my last name on there. It’s a great feeling. I love it so far. I know that they treat their people very well."
Airman 1st Class Trevor Kreyling
, 18, Murrieta, California
"I wanted to do something to get away from home. I’m adventurous and would like to travel. Education, too. Once I finally get going around to college, I’ll have it paid for. I’ll be working security forces. If I like it, it might be something I’ll pursue later. I was in the Navy JROTC in high school and my instructor recommended me joining the Air Force after his daughter joined. He said it would fit me better than joining any other branch."
Airman Basic Shamel Watkins
, left, 20, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
"I felt like it was the best move I could make for me. You can never go wrong joining the military. There are a lot of benefits and upsides compared to what I was doing before. I was doing a lot of job hopping. My dad is in the Coast Guard and he told me that the best advice that I could give to you about the military is to join the Air Force. He said that they take care of you better than any other branch."
Airman Basic Deandre Williams
, right, 20, Baltimore
"I come from a military family. My two sisters are in the Air Force and they give me a lot of insight about the Air Force. I feel that it’s a good jump-start in life. You learn a trade. In my trade, in particular, in electrical power production, I can bring it to the civilian world and make it a career once I get out."
Airman 1st Class Ross Couture
, 31, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
"I was curious and ready for a challenge. I’ll be going into air traffic control. I was doing woodworking before. When I was 17 I just wasn’t ready to join. Every time I think about my life I go through these cycles where I come back and think about what I’m going to do next. My father recently brought it up and I said, 'OK I’m going to do it.' I didn’t think I was too old to sign up. I’m in good shape. The other trainees called me dad. It was sort of the end of their childhood. I know when to shed some ego and step back and reassess. I just received my associate degree so I want to get my bachelor’s degree while I’m in here, because I have aspirations of being an officer."
Airman Basic Laquetta Wilson
, 20, Walterboro, South Carolina
"I signed up for educational purposes and to make sure that I have a better life. I’ll be the first one in my family to be in the military. I feel very proud about that."
Airman Basic Matthew Alfaro
, 18, Los Angeles
"I always wanted to work on aircraft. I grew up in a family with a lot of handymen, so there was a lot of working in the garage with cars and motorcycles. I thought, 'Why not work on the big toys -- planes -- in the Air Force?' I’ll be in aircraft hydraulic systems. I look forward to working with heavy aircraft, like the bombers."
Airman Basic Ervin Lemaster
, 20, Pasadena, Maryland
"I joined for the career opportunities. Here I can get a top secret clearance and from there I can join an intelligence branch. I’ll be training in operations intelligence. I’d love to work at the (National Security Agency) someday. There are more benefits in the Air Force and it’s a more family oriented military branch. My aunt is a retired master sergeant and she played a big part in my decision."
(Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for clarity and length. Compiled by Sean Kimmons and photos by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)