Stripes to Gold Bars

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Isaiah J. Soliz
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Imagine hearing news that leaves you frozen in a blank state, a flood of thoughts and emotions rush through you after you discover your hard earned stripes are about to be traded in for gold bars. 

This was how Nathaniel Crocker felt the moment he found out he was selected for an officer’s commission after his first application via the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School program Total Force Officer Training.

TFOT is a rigorous eight-week training and education course held at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama that covers a variety of subjects including leadership, The Profession of Arms, communications and warfare studies.

Staff Sgt. Crocker is currently assigned to Tyndall’s 325th Contracting Squadron as a contract specialist. Following TFOT, Crocker will attend a course to learn his new roles and responsibilities as an acquisitions manager before departing Florida for his new base.

Before enlisting in the Air Force, Crocker hailed from a small town just outside Boston called Revere, Massachusetts.

When he was younger, Crocker never really knew what he wanted to do when he grew up. He knew he wanted to gain experience and wanted to work but was unsure of what exactly he wanted to do. After working a few different jobs and with the help of a friend, Crocker said he was sort of pushed toward the Air Force.

“I thought why not try this out, so I joined at 26 years old,” Crocker said with a shrug. “It’s weird to think of how far I’ve come.”

When he was putting the OTS application together Crocker admits he felt inspired. Since joining the Air Force Crocker always had the goal of commissioning, so he began the process the moment he earned his bachelor’s degree.

With his application to OTS, Crocker had to compile a detailed history of his life. During the application process, aspects of Crocker’s life were evaluated both objectively and subjectively.

“What goes into the application process is everything you have ever accomplished before and during your Air Force career,” Crocker said. “It is a process that requires a profound amount of [self-analysis], one that I will admit taught me quite a bit about myself.”

After waiting months for the results, Crocker began to feel uneasy about his chances of being selected.

“I entered this odd sort of neutral state where I couldn’t really conceive of what it would be like to either get selected or not get selected,” Crocker said. “When I finally got the call from my commander, I had to quickly pull my car over to make sure I heard him right. It was such a great feeling to see something you put time and effort into come to fruition.”

When he is not wearing the uniform, he loves spending time with his family. Throughout his Air Force journey Crocker has had his loving wife and stepchildren by his side.

“My wife is very supportive of everything I do, she works our schedules around me accomplishing tasks and going to school,” Crocker said with a smile from ear to ear. “I suddenly get sparked and dive right into things and she supports me.”

Crocker is amazed to see where he is at now in his career; he is proud of all the milestones he and his family have accomplished.

“My proudest moment is realizing I can do something as long as I put my mind to it,” said Crocker. “I always have my eyes set on the next task at hand, my family and I are always poised for the next challenge.”

Crocker is one of eight Tyndall Airmen selected for this commissioning opportunity. He believes he and the others will most likely be attending OTS during the next fiscal year. 

“All you have to do is give a little of yourself, the Air Force gives back when you give to it,” Crocker said. “If you are interested in accomplishing something that you feel is beyond what you feel capable, just go for it and see what happens. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.”