'Semper Fi' to 'Flying High'

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

One decision can weigh heavily on you, because the fear of making the wrong choice is crippling. For one Airman, the life-altering decision was to re-enlist, separate, or switch to another branch of service at the end of his contract.

Enlisting into another branch of service is sometimes an option service members don’t think about, but for U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Shelby Demorest, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament technician, leaving the Marine Corps behind to become an Airman was the better option for his future.

“I loved and enjoyed being in the Marine Corps, but I don’t regret any part of my decision to join the Air Force,” said Demorest whose grandfather who was in the Air Force. “I’m definitely career Air Force. I’m going to finish out my 20 [and retire] here.”

Although Demorest has no regrets about his choice, he credits the Marines Corps with instilling the discipline and desire to be the best which enables him to be successful in his new career.

“I really did enjoy serving in the Marine Corps,” said Demorest, who was his platoon’s honor graduate and promoted to the rank of Private First Class six months early. “Discipline and hard work were the biggest [qualities] that I brought over from the Marines.”

The Lakeland, Fla. native was in aviation armament in the Marines and after four years, went into Marine Reserves, starting his pursuit to join the Air Force. He is now an alternate mission equipment element team member with the 23d EMS armament flight.

“[The Marines] definitely set him up for success,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Holdcroft, 23d EMS armament flight chief, who has worked in the career field for 18 and a half years. “He’s only been with us a few months but so far he’s been outstanding and the training he received there shows. He’s got a lot of initiative and I see him going far and doing really well in the Air Force.”

Transferring to the Air Force was not an easy or short process with Demorest taking an entire year to finish. After overcoming the obstacles and set-backs he faced joining the Air Force, Demorest will have to get adjusted to life as an Airman.

“It’s been a little bit of a challenge for him getting used to the cultural differences between the Marines and the Air Force but, as far as the technical side of it, he’s coming along really well,” said Holdcroft.

Demorest does the same job in the Air Force that he did for four years in the Marines. While the basics are the same, procedures, schedules and even leadership roles are handled differently.

“I do miss being in that leadership role all the time, I felt more involved,” said Demorest. “I know our job is important because we’re putting bombs downrange, killing bad guys and saving good guys, but talking to the commander face-to-face [like I did in the Marines] lets you see the bigger picture. You feel important and responsible and you take pride in what you’re doing.”

The desire to earn more responsibility shines through his work ethic and demeanor while he’s working, and his leadership has taken notice.

“He is definitely ready to join that NCO tier,” said Holdcroft, who supervises 48 Airmen. “His leadership is right where it needs to be because of his background in the Marines. He’s had different experiences than the guys here who have only been in the Air Force and that makes him unique.”

While the experience Demorest gained in the Marines gave him qualities his supervisors admire, there are key differences in the pace and technical sides of Marine and Air Force armament shops.

“When you speak directly to the commander, there’s an urgency to it and you don’t want any room for error,” said Demorest. “You want to make sure it’s done fast and right and that contributes to the [fast] work tempo. I think the Air Force pays more attention to detail with maintenance and everything is documented more. The job is still getting done on both fronts, but they do it differently.”

Along with faster pace of the Marines, the workload and tasks Demorest could be tasked with was exponentially increased. The Air Force’s clear distinctions between jobs and duties gives Demorest a clearer understanding of the equipment he maintains.

“There’s a lot of knowledgeable people at this shop and I’m trying to learn as much as I can from these guys,” said Demorest. “I think sometimes my pace gets in the way because sometimes I’m trying to go fast and do things quick [like I did in the Marines], and the guys in the shop check me and remind me to relax and that this isn’t a rushed step. I’m definitely glad to have them there to make sure I’m doing things right.”

Demorest added that the discipline he learned in the Marines helps him stay focused so he doesn’t skip steps in the technical data and he makes sure things are done correctly.

“It’s a lot more relaxed,” said Demorest. “I have a better work schedule that’s not as many hours as the Marine Corps, so I’m enjoying it so far. I’m enjoying the troop welfare, the time to be able to go to school, and the time the Air Force takes to teach you what you need to know.”

Demorest changed his branch of service and is now in a shop he loves, doing a job he feels is important and impressing his leadership with his work ethic and fortitude. He knows the Air Force is the right fit for him, and he plans on staying in for the long haul.