(Editor’s note: Earlier this month, Senior Airman Hackford shared her Air Force story during the 75th Air Base Wing commander’s call. Every Airman–military or civilian–has a story. This is her Air Force story.)
Good day, I’m Senior Airman Rebecca Hackford and I’m excited to be here and share with you my Air Force story.
I was born and raised in the small beautiful coastal town of North Bend, Oregon, a place known for logging and fishing exports. I come from a bi-nuclear family where my mother and her family lived in North Bend and my father and his family lived in Portland, but they were still able to raise my sister and me together.
My poor father had four daughters, but always said I was his favorite ‘son’ because growing up I was very active in extracurricular activities. I was an avid hunter and fisherwoman, I performed in 14 public theater productions, I am currently in my 19th year as a Girl Scout (no, I don’t have any Girl Scout cookies to sell you!), I played softball for seven years and all stars for three years, I was a cheerleader for five years, and I was on a competition team for three years and an all-state team for two years. Go Bulldogs!
After high school, I wasn’t confident in what I wanted to do in the real world, so I went to college on a cheer scholarship hoping to figure it out as I went along. I changed my major three times in my first year and a half. So, I decided college just wasn’t for me and like any irresponsible adolescent, I packed up my belongings, said “so long” to my parents and headed for the bright lights of Las Vegas without a plan.
It didn’t take long to realize I had made a colossal mistake. Although I was working three jobs, it still wasn’t enough to make ends meet. After a year of being homeless and bouncing around from couch to couch, I recognized I had gotten into a mess and needed to get myself out.
After I scrounged up enough money I moved back to Oregon, re-enrolled in school and had a stable part-time-job. I still didn’t feel fulfilled. So, I had a lengthy conversation with my stepfather about my dilemma.
Now, my stepfather is quite possibly the scariest man I have ever met. As a child I would’ve sworn he stood 8 feet tall and had a voice that boomed for miles.
But, from my perspective, the love he had for his career was very admirable. He served as an Oregon State patrolman and in undercover narcotics for nine years and as a detective with a specialty in homicide for 17 years. He got his start as a security policeman in the U.S. Air Force. So, I figured, I’m not really moving toward an goals in college and I can’t work at a coffee shop my entire life–although most Oregonians try!–why not try and get my foot in the law enforcement door with the Air Force.
The very next day I marched into the recruiter’s office and said, “I’m here to become part of the world’s greatest Air Force!” I’m sure I didn’t use those exact words, but it was something along those lines.
Before the recruiter was able to give me a list of AFSCs, I let him know I wanted to be in Security Forces so I could follow in my stepfather’s footsteps.
Before I knew it, my husband was dropping me off at the airport and I was on a plane clutching the hand of a girl I’d never met before,both of us heading to Lackland Air Force Base with fear of the unknown.
As it turned out, we both survived!
After basic training I spent 13 weeks at the Security Forces Academy where I obtained the skills to protect, defend, and fight in the Air Force’s largest career field.
As Security Forces we are responsible for guarding some of the most powerful weapons on the planet and that takes a significant amount of training in combatives, combat arms, law enforcement, integrated base defense, and antiterrorism.
After procuring the correct skill set, my husband and I were on our way to the other side of the world to Kadena Air Base, Japan, where we spent the next three years.
Shortly after arriving to Kadena, I was tasked on a short-notice, six-month deployment to Afghanistan.
There, my team searched vehicles and personnel entering the installation and performed flightline security. We worked directly with the Afghan National Army and trained Georgian armed forces to take control of the vehicle and personnel searches. While deployed I’d had plenty of time to self-reflect and wonder, “What was I doing? Am I just going to skate through my six year enlistment like I did with college? Or am I going to use this opportunity to make something of Rebecca Hackford?”
At this point, I had been in the occupational Air Force for 10 months and had travelled to seven different countries, places a small town girl like myself never thought I’d see. It was only the beginning of my career and I had the world at my fingertips.
With my deployment experience under my belt I was awarded Security Forces Flight Level Airman of the Year for Pacific Air Forces and received Senior Airman Below-the-Zone promotion.
Shortly after arriving home my husband and I were blessed with the news we were expecting a beautiful baby girl. Anticipating her arrival pushed my motivation to an all-time high! I re-enrolled in school (third time’s the charm) in order to receive my Community College of the Air Force degree. But, it wasn’t until my daughter’s arrival that it hit me like a ton of bricks–I would never stop making and achieving goals because it was now my responsibility to guide her to be a confident and ambitious little lady!
So, I asked, and asked, and asked for my leadership to send me to Airman Leadership School to acquire better leadership skills because I wanted to make staff sergeant on my first try. And by golly, I did!
Looking back now, before joining the Air Force, I never realized my full potential or set any standards.
The Air Force has provided me with every tool I’ve needed in order to reach every goal. I’m very grateful for the way my parents were able to raise me together, yet apart, and instill me with morals and personal responsibility.
I’m grateful for the ability to learn from my mistakes, which led me to make my decision to join the Air Force and has provided many opportunities of a lifetime.
Most importantly, I’m grateful for the support my husband, Chase, and my daughter, Lynea, have provided to keep me on track to accomplish everything I have thus far.
I’m a wife, a mother and Airman, and I wouldn’t trade it because it gave me the world!