From Latvia to America: Adaptable Airman finds love, satisfaction, success in Air Force

  • Published
  • By A1C Clinton Atkins
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Editor's Note: This article is the second in a series highlighting Airmen at Hanscom from foreign countries.

"Flexibility is the key to airpower." This phrase is often spoken by Air Force leadership to convey the need for Airmen to be able to adapt quickly to change.

The Air Force found that quality in one Airman, who learned to be flexible and adaptable at a young age.

Though multilingual and culturally cognizant Airman 1st Class Anete Adams, 66th Mission Support Group information manager, is now stationed here, her journey began far from New England.

Airman Adams was born in 1981 in Saldus, Latvia, which gained its independence from the Soviet Union ten years later.

Airman Adams attributes success in her profession now to the lessons she learned growing up in the small Baltic country of 2.5 million.

As a child, Airman Adams learned to be flexible by balancing schoolwork with her extracurricular activities, which included playing the piano and singing in the school choir."My parents were very strict, and I did not really have a choice," she said. "If I had to practice playing the piano for two hours, then that's what I did."

Since Latvia's economy was devastated in the early post-Soviet years, Airman Adams' mother found work for her daughter as a nanny in Germany.

In August 2000, Airman Adams, just 19, moved to Frankfurt, Germany, to work for a German family."Basically, the initial idea of the family was for me to be an oldest sister to the children," she said.

"It was my first time away from home and it was very hard in the beginning, because I didn't know any German at all," Airman Adams said.

Since the German language is similar to Latvian, however, Airman Adams was able to adapt to her new lifestyle quickly. She thrived on the challenges that her new job and culture presented. "It gave me an opportunity to really experience life and work outside of Latvia," she said.

While living in Frankfurt, Airman Adams managed to balance her nanny duties with her passion for singing. She joined one of Frankfurt's best mixed choirs and had the opportunity to sing in Frankfurt's famous Old Opera House in a performance with world famous opera singers.

Meeting her future husband, then-Tech. Sgt. Shannon Adams, in an Irish pub in Frankfurt, marked the beginning of the next chapter and greatest change in her life.

Airman Adams adapted and entwined her long distance relationship into her busy schedule by staying in touch with Sergeant Adams through e-mails and phone calls. The next phase of their relationship was characterized by a series of trips from Germany or Latvia to Italy to visit him.

"Before 2004, Latvia was not part of the European Union or NATO. Because of this, I could not stay in Italy more than 90 days without a permit," she said.

While in Latvia, she worked as a full-time nanny again and in Italy she spent her time with Sergeant Adams. She also began developing skills in a third language -- English.

Airman Adams continued dividing her personal and professional life between Latvia and Italy for nearly a year before the couple married in August of 2002.

Airman Adams and her husband moved to Aviano Air Base, Italy, in the summer of 2003. While there, she attended the University of Maryland University College for two years, majoring in business administration and worked at a fast food establishment on base.

Airman Adams said that she saw herself doing bigger things with her life, however. Her solution was in plain sight everywhere she looked on base -- the Air Force. After experiencing being an Air Force spouse for three years, she surprised her husband by deciding to enlist.

"I thought it would be the best route to do something with my life," she said.

She went to Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in April. Her time at BMT was her first experience in the U.S.

After she finished basic, she moved on to technical training school at Keesler AFB, Miss., for information management training.

"I couldn't wait to get out of there," Airman Adams said. "I was just so eager to get my first assignment to start experiencing the real Air Force life."

Her first assignment tested her flexibility. Though she had planned to have a joint spouse assignment to Aviano AB, she was surprised to learn she had been assigned to Hanscom. Rather than reacting negatively to the situation, she viewed it as a unique opportunity, she said.

"Because I never lived in the states, I thought this would be a great opportunity to experience a new place," she said.

She arrived at Hanscom in August and was assigned to assist Tech. Sgt. Michael Dodge, 66th Mission Support Group information manager, noncommissioned officer in charge, with information manager training.

Her work experience in Europe has prepared her for her current job, she said, by enabling her to easily adjust to a new environment and how to be sensitive to different people with different cultural backgrounds.

"Airman Adams is a definite asset to the Air Force," Sergeant Dodge said. "Cultural diversity is one of the main reasons our Armed Forces is so strong, and we can all learn something from Airmen like Airman Adams -- it's important that we do.

"She has a great attitude and strives to learn something new each and every day," he said.

After she completes her career development courses, she said she will continue striving for her degree as she prepares for the opportunities the Air Force and life present her.

"Being flexible has always been a part of my life ever since I was young," Airman Adams said. "I'm looking forward to challenges the future has in store for me."