Monday, January 21, 2013

Words from an OAY: SMSgt Hernandez

Senior Master Sergeant Emilio Hernandez, of the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, is the third guest OAY blogger in the series. This year, SMSgt Hernandez was recognized for leading 52 people in 53 civil engineering projects at 163 forward operating bases in support of 85,000 warfighters. He orchestrated $80,000 in repairs to nine Marine Corps aircraft hangars to safeguard $300 million in assets in support of a vital ISR platform. Sergeant Hernandez oversaw a project to upgrade an electrical grid on a dam, which preserved water and power flow to 450,000 Afghans, and managed the construction of two tactical operations centers worth $500,000, securing Afghanistan’s key district of Panjwai.

What is your Air Force Story?

As one of this year’s 12 Outstanding Airmen, we have the honor to represent our total force family not just on the enlisted council but whenever called upon by Air Force leadership. This requires being present at events to advertise the 12 OAY program and the benefits of AFA membership. One common request I always hear from leadership is that airmen share their Air Force story. At first, I asked myself, what is my story? Then I asked others if they fully understand or could capture and share their story. There were many answers to this question; mission, job specialty, deployments, assignments, and personal experience were almost always the more common ones. Where to begin? Which is right? What do they want me to say? All of these questions ran through my mind until I put it all in perspective. Your Air Force story can be one or all of these categories and at the same time should not be restricted to any one of them. It is about what you feel is important to you. It’s about your personal interpretation of how your Air Force experience has shaped your life and your selfless devotion to serve.

Another question is why? Why tell your story? No matter what your job, rank, or status we are all important contributors to the Air Force mission and to our nation’s security. We serve in one of the most diversified community composed of men and women from all aspects of our society with the ability to influence public opinion and further foster diversity. We have the power to recruit our replacements…yes we are all recruiters, every single one of us to include active duty, guard and reserve, retirees, civilians and yes even dependents. Ask my wife, she can share many Air Force stories of her own. We all share the responsibility of making the Air Force the best place to serve and sharing our experiences with others provides a view into what we and the Air Force bring to military service.

My particular story starts with a need to serve based on gratitude, gratitude towards a great nation that adopted my family and me without question or conditions. See I was born in Cuba and as a young boy traveled 90 miles to Florida and ultimately the city of Hialeah where I grew up alongside my father, mother and sister. I entered the Air Force in 1992 to learn a trade, but also for a calling of giving back to a nation that gave my family and me so much. The Air Force has trained me, taking me places I used to dream off or watch on television. It has given me the opportunity to make a difference in events that will shape our future. It has also given me the opportunity to help those in need both at home and abroad, but most important it exposed me to a diverse force composed of the best men and women our nation has ever known. After 20 years I still feel this calling, even stronger than before. I once again feel indebted as I watch my children grow and start to pursue their dreams and goals. I also feel inspired as I see a new generation of airmen answer the call to serve. For me, the Air Force is my way of life, it’s the most important cause I will ever have and the most rewarding job I will ever experience. That’s my Air Force story, what’s yours? Will you share it?

SMSgt Emilio Hernandez 

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