United States Air Force veteran Nay Naing, 31, could see the World Trade Center from his childhood home in Harrison, New Jersey and living that close to Ground Zero during the 9/11 terrorist attacks inspired him to serve his country. Initially interested in the Marine Corps, Naing chose to join the Air Force because he wanted to fly. Ironically, his vision disqualified him from being a pilot, but his horizons were broadened all the same.
Naing started his career in the military as a Nuclear and Missile Operations Officer. That meant pulling 24 hour shifts in underground bunkers all over the country to keep America’s nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles at the ready. One of his fondest memories from that time was being on board a KC-135 Stratotanker while it refueled an A10 Thunderbolt. After the mission was over, he was able to sit in the boom operator’s position and take in a view from the bottom of the plane that Naing described as “a memorable experience.”
Given the nature of his duties, Naing spent a lot of time with his fellow airmen. In particular, one man he shared a bunker with later helped him secure his current job at John Hancock Financial services. Today, Naing is a Projects Manager in that company’s U.S. Finance division. Naing said that having the opportunity to develop those connections made him extremely grateful that he joined “the world’s biggest fraternity.”
On the subject of what serving in the military did for him personally, Naing had a multifaceted answer that involved three different aspects of his life. “I’m very glad I served six years in the military. It instilled me with a lot of great values. It changed my attitude, so I stopped being someone who always feared the worst and I became someone who just goes after what he wants. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. No matter how bad things get, I’m not going to have to run from machine gun fire.”
Having spent six years in the Air Force, Naing found that being far away from his loved ones made him appreciate family more than ever. He also discovered his concerns that serving in the Air Force would put him at a disadvantage compared to his civilian peers were unfounded. “I learned vastly more about leadership, a diverse array of cultures and a variety of different technologies that I would have with any business. Even if I worked for three different companies, I wouldn’t have been exposed to so much diversity.” And while Naing credits time in the service with having a hugely positive impact on his life, as a Denver Broncos fan, he’s happy to have his weekends back.
Mario McKellop is a freelance writer who has covered the pop culture beat since 2010.