Students always assume I’m in ROTC when they find out I’m in the military. It makes sense. It’s the main connection people make when they hear military and UNH. People rarely think about the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard. That’s what I’m in: the New Hampshire Air National Guard proudly serving in the 157th Air Refueling Wing at Pease Air National Guard Base in the Public Affairs office.

After finishing my training I found out I was accepted to UNH, a school known for taking care of their military affiliated students. I was ecstatic to finally be able to attend college. Telling all my professors that I may not be in class some days because of military obligations has been easy. They all understood that I had a valid reason, and I wasn’t just cutting class. Now, trying to explain to my roommates and new friends about the whole military thing and why I’m a 20-year-old freshman has been difficult. Trying to tell people who aren’t in the military about military things normally leads to a wide variety of confused facial expressions, and that’s ok. The good thing is today’s generation of Airmen are more likely to be open about their service and share their stories. Take a look at last year’s UNH commencement speaker, Ryan Pitts, a former Army Staff Sergeant. He shared his story in front of thousands of people!

The second question people have is “Are you actually in the military?” The quick answer is “Yes, I’m in the Air Force.” I went through all the same Basic Military Training and tech training as everyone else in active duty and the reserves. There is no way to physically tell us apart. From uniforms to ID cards, training to the rules and regulations we must follow, there is no difference. The major difference is that the guard is part time for traditional guardsmen. Additionally, the guard is state funded, so my commander in chief is the governor, not the president. I know that sounds confusing, and I’ll leave the longer explanation for another column.

Next I get asked, “How do you handle everything?” My answer is simple, I have never had it any other way. I didn’t go to college right off the bat. I knew I wanted to take a year off—or in my case two years off—and really figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I joined the military when I was a senior in high school. I wanted to serve my country, and I had always had my mind set on joining. After witnessing the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard take my friends home from school in massive trucks after the state flooded and we were left stranded at my elementary school, I knew it was my calling. But to be honest being a military student is hard when you get down to it. You have a lot of commitments that you have to keep, and it’s a lot. But I can honestly say I wouldn’t have it any other way.

*The views and opinions stated here are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the New Hampshire Air National Guard.

Ashlyn Correia is a freshman majoring in communication.