© Jerry F. Couch 2019
Last Friday, Airman First Class Dillon Hartley and his proud mom, Paula Hartley, visited us at the Clinch Valley Times. Dillon, age 22, is a graduate of Castlewood High School and attended Southwest Virginia Community College. Earlier this year, he enlisted in the United States Air Force – something he had been considering since 2016. In recent months he has received training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Now he is on leave in St. Paul visiting family and friends before assignment to F. E. Warren Air Force Base near Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The first question I asked Dillon was “Is the food any good?” His reply was an enthusiastic “Yes!” I also asked if he was homesick during his first weeks in Vandenberg. He laughed and said, “No – they kept us so busy I didn’t have time to be homesick.” Here’s how Dillon describes a typical day:
- 5:00 am – Breakfast
- 5:55 am – Form up and march to class
- 6:30 am – Classes begin
- 10:45 am – Lunch is served
- 3:30 pm – Classes end
- 4:00 pm – Physical Training begins
- 5:00 pm – Physical Training ends
- 6:00 pm – Dinner is served
- Training is followed by free time with 1.5 hours set aside for study.
- 9:00 pm – Lights out
The Air Force places considerable emphasis on orderliness. As a result, Dillon told us he has become more focused and pays greater attention to detail (Paula concurred). Self-discipline is an important component in his projected career of electronic maintenance.
Dillon explained that trainees at Vandenberg are of diverse ethnicity and life experience, as well as cultural and educational backgrounds. One new friend is from Guam and Dillon has enjoyed comparing his experiences in St. Paul with his friends’ experiences at his home.
In the Air Force, Dillon will continue his education while completing a 4-year apprenticeship. This is a job requirement that will open future career paths, both military and civilian. Dillon told us that throughout his training, his instructors have demonstrated a strong willingness to help trainees succeed. He graduated in the upper ranks of his class with a 94 GPA.
While he’s here in SWVA, Dillon has been spending time outdoors doing one of his favorite things – fishing. He is also assisting local USAF recruiter SSgt. Pedro Claudio at his office. If you know someone who is considering a military career, please share this contact information:
Dillon is a true Appalachian. We are fortunate to have ALL our hometown heroes (and their families) on our side. We hope to feature future articles about local people who are serving in our armed forces.