I thought they said ‘Crete’

  • Published
  • By By Airman 1st Class Victoria Nuzzi
  • 432nd Wing/ 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing

I learned about my first duty assignment on a frigid October day. I was in formation as part of the 336 Training Squadron Detachment 2 at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, and heard the list of bases called out. I got excited as I heard Aviano, Italy, getting called out for one Airman and then terrified when Barksdale, Louisiana, was called out for another. I heard my name and my first assignment called out in a blur. I heard Crete! ‘Do we have a base in Crete, Greece?’ I thought to myself. No, Captain didn’t say Crete. Captain said Creech Air Force Base, Nev.

I broke down in the dining facility in front of two friends that day. It was a rarity for me to cry in front of other people. I had already lived overseas in a desert, in Dubai. I hated the desert. Now, all I could think about was the Air Force sending me back to a flat, ugly desert.

Looking back a year later Creech has more than meets the eye. Many Airmen have opinions about Creech but were never stationed here. When you ask people about Creech, they say it’s a base near Las Vegas in the middle of nowhere. An instructor told me unprompted there was nothing out there repeatedly. An Air Force Major said Creech was ‘interesting’ in a negative tone. I asked him why, and he said he had heard that it was in the middle of nowhere and small.

When I arrived at Creech, I was pleasantly surprised. The mission of Creech is to deter and defeat America’s adversaries with the MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft. It is a smaller base with just over 4,000 Airmen. In comparison, Nellis has close to 14,000 Airmen. Creech is also roughly 30 miles north of Las Vegas.

Yet, most people I have met here are delighted to be stationed at Creech.

Most of them are proud to work with a unique aircraft few people get to see, let alone be around it daily. As a public affairs Airman, I love the opportunity to photograph it because I know only a few ever get the chance to. I have even met more than a couple of high-ranking officers and enlisted personnel who requested to return to this base because they liked it so much the first time.

Even the desert itself is captivating. The desert here is not barren like the fictional Arrakis from Dune or the real Dubai. When I lived overseas in Dubai I hated the desert with a passion. There was nothing but sand some more sand and then camels. I made the mistake of assuming that the Mojave desert was the same. Creech has mountains on all sides, giving the arid landscape more detail than other deserts. There is more vegetation here than I expected, such as palm trees and cacti. The drive to Creech is long, but it is beautiful. Watching the sunrise in the morning coming over those mountains is the highlight of my day.

For Airmen who enjoy hiking like me, there are two local areas I recommend. There is Red Rock, a scenic conservation area with vibrant red sandstone cliffs, or Mt Charleston, the highest mountain peak in southern Nevada which has an alpine forest environment, a stark contrast to the Mojave Desert. The two areas are both within an hour of Creech.

Las Vegas has its charms such as the abundance of activities but to me, it is almost like a fake city. Personally, I enjoy nature and historic places even when I travel so Las Vegas is almost the opposite of what I like. Las Vegas also comes with its own set of problems and has even given me a few. For example, my Mom was pickpocketed on her first night in Las Vegas while visiting me. The city of Las Vegas can be exciting but it's better with mace, a wingman, and no backpacks in crowded places like the Strip.

Both the instructor and Major at my technical school were right in a way. There is little out here at Creech. As the Major said, it is interesting compared to other bases since it operates uniquely and is remote, but it’s interesting in a positive way.

Creech is most likely not on any first-term Airmen's dream sheet, but it is not a punishment. The attitude I keep seeing here from across career fields is we are not at our dream base, but we will make the most of it. Whether that means traveling and exploring or making your dorm feel like home. I have learned in my time here that Creech is what you make of it.