INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
With one paint brush secured in her right hand and another tucked behind her ear she effortlessly applies bright-yellow paint to her newest masterpiece.
When presented with the chance to combine her love for drawing with her love for her job, one Airman jumped at the opportunity to create a mural for her squadron’s heritage room.
The loud music blaring over the speakers in the background fits today’s mood, but it doesn’t matter because drawing is always her happy place.
Though the environment has changed throughout the years, from doodling notebook sketches to drawing on canteens, they all symbolize one thing: an Airman’s love for creating new things.
“I’ve been drawing for forever. I don’t remember not drawing,” said Airman 1st Class Amber Branch, 728th Air Mobility Squadron passenger services agent. “I consider my talent to be a jack of all trades, but master of none. Painting, writing, drawing, I’m just good at it because I’ve been doing it for a very long time.”
Over the next month, Branch dedicated every free moment to perfecting a mural designed to showcase all the moving parts that make the 728th AMS mission a success.
“Watching Branch bring our mission to life through her artistic abilities gave me a sense of pride and belonging,” said MSgt Stephanie West, 728th AMS passenger services section chief. “Knowing one of my Airmen not only volunteered to paint the mural, but invested her own time and materials, made me more confident in the level of understanding and pride our Airmen have in the roles they play in accomplishing the mission through tradition and heritage.”
To Branch, drawing is a destresser and working against a deadline while being sure to balance her work duties and the new found project presented a challenge.
“Doing this mural was a little rocky at first because we have lots of missions and the mission comes first so I would stay late and do this,” said Branch.
Luckily, the number of missions slowly died down, added Branch.
With less missions to complete, Branch focused on perfecting the intricacies of the mural consisting of a yellow background, a blue folded flag, an eagle, a soldier’s cross silhouette, a compass, a K-loader and a C-5 Galaxy.
All of the mural’s parts “Damn Straight” represent the 728th AMS like the yellow and blue symbolizing the squadron’s colors and the eagle from the unit patch. However, the folded flag and soldiers cross silhouette have an extra special meaning to Branch.
“I was knocking around ideas for a couple of days and then I went to honor guard practice and we happened to be practicing flag folding,” said Branch. “I folded the flag and I was like this is perfect. We get a lot of troops here through the passenger terminal and it’s a memento to all of the guys that couldn’t make it back here from deployment.”
Long after Branch’s assignment is over her legacy will live on through the mural displayed in the heritage room for all of incoming passengers to see.
“I know that I’m good at what I do,” said Branch. “The only part of this that I felt pressure about is the K-loader. I work the passenger side of my job and I don’t really work with K-loaders that often. My worry is that someone will come in and think that’s totally incorrect and who painted this?”
To the untrained eye, the mural design looks complete, but Branch says it’s not finished just yet, because she weaves a little something personal into each painting.
“It’s not just me leaving something here,” said Branch. “You can’t see it but there are people’s names in the flag. They’re people I’ve worked with who have impacted me, so I wrote their names in the flag because I wanted to leave a little piece of them here too. I always leave little things in my paintings, you just have to look for them.”
Although Branch is just one year into her career, it hasn’t stopped her from leaving her mark around the Air Force.
“I painted a female (military training instructor) at basic during Airman’s Week, and when I went to technical school, I painted the squadron logo,” she said. “So I left murals there, I’m leaving a mural here and you can bet your bottom dollar I’m probably going to leave a mural at my next base too.”