In this photo illustration, Senior Airman Kentavist Brackin wears the uniforms of both the Air Force and the Marine Corps. In a recent essay, the former Marine corporal writes about his fondness for the Air Force. (Staff Sgt. Jeff Andrejcik/Air Force)
Marines and airmen might have opinions about what each other’s service is like, but one devil dog who made the switch to the Air Force said both sides might be surprised to learn that they’re not as different as they might think.
Senior Airman Kentavist Brackin was a Marine until 2011. As a corporal, he found out that his combat correspondent military occupation specialty was closed to promotion. But he wasn’t quite ready to leave the military, he said.
He faced a tough decision — leave the MOS he set his hopes on since shipping off to boot camp behind, or leave the Marine Corps. And his Marine buddies had some surprising advice.
“They were telling me [the Air Force] had a higher quality of living, and they have an emphasis on career development and education,” Brackin said.
So in November 2012, Brackin replaced his MARPAT with an Airman Battle Uniform.
The switch didn’t come without its challenges. Brackin, now assigned to 1st Special Operations out of Hurlburt Field, Fla., recently detailed his move in a commentary titled “Trading my eagle, globe and anchor to be an airman,” which was published by Air Force public affairs.
“There are differences I still deal with today,” he said. “It’s just realizing that the two are fundamentally different. In the Marine Corps, you have a combat mindset, and in the Air Force, it’s [based on] the mission in the air. ... I had to change my line of thinking.”
Fighting by flight requires a lot of long term planning, he said, which is different from the rush of putting boots on the ground and bursting through doors. It creates two different cultures, he said, and the Air Force tends to encourage an exchange of ideas. That’s unique to anyone with a background as a Marine, he said, where they’re trained to follow orders on a moment’s notice.
“In the Marines, sergeants always told me to keep my opinions to myself,” he wrote in his commentary.
And even though he moved over as an E-4, Brackin was no longer considered a noncommissioned officer. As a corporal, he was responsible for leading Marines, but as an senior airmen, he won’t be responsible for leading others until he picks up another rank.
In the Corps, Brackin was responsible for junior Marines while deployed overseas. He said he helped them manage their finances and better deal with being away from home for the first time. It’s something he said he misses at times, but in his commentary wrote that it also made him feel “like a babysitter.”
“I knew if I didn’t check on my ‘kids,’ something was liable to be broken,” he wrote.
As for some of the other stereotypes Marines have about airmen, including that their fitness levels are sub-par, Brackin said he doesn’t see it. Marines get the idea that the Air Force is easier because their operational tempo is different, but he knows a lot of CrossFit-crazed airmen that PT as hard as any Marine, he said.
“I’ve met a lot of physically fit airmen and a lot of out of shape Marines,” he said.
Uniform aside, Brackin said his Marine Corps past isn’t something he has been able to shed completely. Airmen are constantly razzing him for his mannerisms, ‘oorahs’ and perfect high and tight, he said.■