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I am SCHRIEVER: Finding new belonging

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Pursuing his passion to fly, pilot training benefits motivated Senior Airman William Nash, 50th Comptroller Squadron Retirement and Separations technician, to join the Air Force. He soon acquired a new belonging – as an American Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class William Tracy)

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Senior Airman William Nash, 50th Comptroller Squadron Retirement and Separations technician, traveled to many places across the world with his wife, settling in the U.S. and joining the Air Force. Nash has worked a variety of jobs in different countries, from being a guide in Finland, escorting groups on snowmobiles to stay in igloos and ice fish, to working services at a prominent ski resort in the Switzerland mountains. (Courtesy photos)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.-- --

In the midst of war, a young British boy walks toward his grammar school; life carrying on around him under a facade of normalcy - when the terrifyingly familiar sound of a German plane roars overhead, and in an instant it shatters all pretense; bullets impacting around him, a solemn reminder of the reality of war.

Senior Airman William Nash’s grandfather has many childhood stories of the dark days of World War II during the Battle of Britain, where he saw British and German planes engage in the struggle for control of the island.

His grandfather’s favorite plane is the British Supermarine spitfire - often called the best plane of the war - adorning the walls and displays in the sunroom of his house.

"He must have an excess of 200 model aircraft," Nash said, with his ever-present English accent. "Usually for his birthday or Christmas I'd buy him a model aircraft."

During visits, Nash hears his stories and sees these models, and he and his grandfather would go to RAF museums and air shows together. Situated south of Britain - France within sight across the sea - and near a RAF base, Nash often saw planes overhead at the house, though in a more benign sense than what his grandfather experienced as a child.

"We would see F-15s on a regular basis fly along the Cliffs of Dover past the house," Nash said. "You would hear the roar of the engines."

These memories made a lasting impression on him.

"I originally wanted to join the RAF and try to become a pilot," he said.

However, school took priority. Growing up in Britain, he moved to London to study at Kingston University when he turned 18. It was there he learned of an opportunity to come to the U.S.

"I found out about an international college program to go to Florida," he said. "That's when I was introduced to the states."

During his first visit, it did not take long for him to notice cultural differences.

"Everything in the U.K. is much smaller, there’s a million different accents within a five miles radius. There's that same kind of diversity here (in the U.S.), just on a much larger scale.

I remember when I first ordered some food there, and the waiter said 'do you want some chips with that?' I assumed they were talking about chips in the U.K. which are fries here,” he continued. “I asked for some ketchup with the chips and the waiter gave a strange look. Then she handed me a bag of chips and I realized what she meant."

He would continue to pay visits to the U.S. in - between his travels, working jobs across Europe, being a guide in Finland, escorting groups on snowmobiles to stay in igloos and ice fish and working services at a prominent ski resort in the Switzerland mountains.

"I was in a crossroads in life. I was looking for adventure jobs. I didn't have a house, I didn't have a car, I had nothing tying me down - I didn't own anything besides some clothes and a laptop."

Eventually he ended up in Australia, working odd jobs, including as a door-to-door milkman.

"It was farm-to-table kind of thing. Our pitch was that it supported Australian farmers. I would go door-to-door and do deliveries; because I was selling milk and not insurance or something they would give me a little bit more time," Nash said.

Meeting his wife while working in the U.S., he married and settled down in the states. Disenchanted by the corporate job he held at the time, Nash decided to reignite his desire to be a pilot after researching the Air Force and learning about education benefits and flying lessons covered by the GI bill.

"I did my research and I saw a really good opportunity to hit the reset button and do something I really wanted to do," he said.

Unable to pursue becoming an officer, as he was not a U.S. citizen at the time, Nash enlisted under the general category, now a 50th Comptroller Squadron Retirement and Separations technician at Schriever. Like his world travels, he sees diversity across the Air Force – even in his own office.

"Our office is an absolute melting pot," Nash said. "You have myself from the U.K., an Airman from Nepal, another from the Philippines, one from Trinidad and Tobago. I think the Air Force is more diverse than any normal U.S. demographic."

Rekindling his aspirations, Nash is pursuing pilot training, actively working towards the desire to be a pilot, fostered from his time with his grandfather.

"When you are up there, you feel like you are completely detached from the world – I just like being up in the clouds and the views are amazing. You see the world in a whole different perspective,” he said.

Nash, soon to undergo his first solo flight test, is anticipating a career as a certified pilot.

“I’m still weighing out my options for the future,” he said. “Whether I go civilian, go palace chase and fly as a reservist or join the enlisted reaper program.”

While the pilot training benefits were one of the reasons he joined, Nash soon acquired new belonging - as an American Airman.

"When you lived in a foreign country, or have an accent from a foreign country, everyone perceives you as a foreigner. They would say 'oh that's just the British guy,'" he said. "When you say you’re in the Air Force you definitely get more respect. I became a U.S. citizen through the Air Force, and it has helped me grow as an American."