Captain Brian Duque, USAF

Me:  Tell us about your job as a flight commander for the United States Air Force?

Captain Brian Duque:  Being a flight commander is the first opportunity at command for an officer to prepare the squadron commander position. It is an opportunity to grow and develop as an officer by trying different leadership styles and making mistakes to learn from.  You can almost think of a flight commander as a mini squadron commander in that they are totally responsible for everything that occurs in their flight. The concepts are very similar, just on a smaller scale with more room to learn. Some of the responsibilities of a flight commander include making sure the members in our flight, roughly 70 people, are combat ready and overseeing their academic, simulator, flight, and ground training.  I monitor manning levels, project losses, and build up the replacements for those losses. A flight commander also provides mentorship and feedback for the members of his/her flight.

Me:  Could you tell us about a few experiences you’d consider as victories?

 Capt Duque:  Last year, on Fourth of July, I was able to help track the Tu-95 Russian Bombers off the coast of Alaska and as they headed towards California. We were airborne for many hours and tracked the entire flight of the Russian bombers. During the flight, there were moments when we were definitely anxious…Afterwards, I was lucky enough to enjoy the last couple of hours of the July 4th celebrations.  I was exhausted, yet so glad I got to be a part of that mission because it reminded me of why I wanted to serve.

Also, while I was stationed in Alaska, I had the most challenging and rewarding job up to that point.  I had just gotten a new job as an assistant flight commander for S-Flight (the Support Flight). S-Flight was unique in that it not only encompassed flyers that I was responsible for but also a myriad of enlisted career fields that I didn’t know much about. We supported the administrative portion for Aircrew Flight Equipment, Intelligence, Squadron Aviation Resource Management, Commander’s Support Staff, and Communications.

Our flight commander was then in upgrade training, so I assumed the role of acting flight commander for five months. I set out to observe each office for a couple of weeks, while also getting to know the personnel under me and also keeping the flyers combat ready. Morale was also low in S-Flight because they were considered an irregular flight in the squadron since they were not solely comprised with flyers as the other flights were.

After getting to know how each office worked and operated, I began to see where we could refine certain processes and streamline things to make each office more effective. I also started quarterly potlucks as a way for each office to bring their signature dishes to share and for the 40 members in our flight to get to know each other better. My leadership team and I also worked hard together to get our members recognized and to start winning quarterly awards, culminating in my flight winning flight of the quarter. After that win, my flight knew they were just as good as any flight.

Looking back at my time in S-Flight, I realized that was the reason I became an officer, to bring a diverse group of people together and make them better and work towards a common goal, to accomplish something bigger than ourselves….I do hope that my superiors, peers, subordinates, and friends know that I will always do my best at whatever task I am given. I will never ask somebody to do something that I would not do myself.  I also hope they trust that I will take care of those around me to the best of my abilities.

Me:  What’s something most people don’t know about you?

 Capt Duque:  Most people don’t know that if I didn’t have my wife to support me, I don’t know if I’d be able to do all of the tasks I have. She really has been the reason I keep improving and trying to better everything around me. I couldn’t do it all without her for sure.

 

 

 

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Captain Gustavo Perez, LAFD

 

Me:  Tell us about yourself.

Captain Gustavo Perez (Los Angeles Fire Department):  I’m 55 years old and I live in Mission Viejo, Ca. I’ve been married for 30 years to my wife Tamara and we have 2 kids. I’ve been with the Los Angeles Fire Department for about 27 years, recently promoted to the rank of Captain I about 9 months ago into Fire Station 14 in the South Los Angeles area. I suppose when I was young, it was always a dream of mine to be a firefighter someday.  Thankfully, I got my chance to become a member of one of the finest fire departments in the nation.

Me:  What are some obstacles you’ve encountered in your personal life and as a firefighter?

Capt Perez:  A few years ago I was diagnosed with leukemia. By far, it was the most difficult thing on a personal level I have had to deal with. Fortunately, I was able to find a cure in the early stages of the disease that has given me not only a chance to move forward with life, but to also return to duty with the Los Angeles Fire Department. The incredible support that me and my family received from my fellow firefighters was overwhelming. It gave me a whole new respect for the gift of being a member of one the greatest organizations in the fire service.

The toughest part of our job is the time away from home due to the 24 hour platoon duty system. Birthdays and major holidays, for example, are difficult at times for our families. Finding a way to balance family and work can be difficult. Fortunately, the fire station can be a home away from home, and our coworkers become extended family.

One of the bigger incidents I was involved in was the Northridge Earthquake of 1994. It’s hard enough to live in Southern California and deal with natural disasters of this type, but that one was different in that I was on duty in the Silverlake area that day and had to not only focus on providing service, but wonder how my family and home were potentially impacted as well. Keep in mind cell phones were not as big a part of our daily lives back then. It was a while before we had an opportunity to check on our loved ones. We had our hands full as an organization providing service with the wide spread damage as well as the impact on the infrastructure, such as damaged water mains that hampered our ability to affect fire suppression.

Without question, the civil unrest of 1992 comes to mind also. The quantity of incidents taxed our dispatch system very early on, which is essential at all times, especially when we were asked to respond with law enforcement protection for the duration of the event. From the onset, we were actually moving from one incident to another, non stop. Operating in this fashion is far from normal, and it put us in a whole different mode of operation.

Me:  What are some of the things you enjoy about being a firefighter?

Capt Perez:  One of the most rewarding aspects of being a firefighter is to have the ability to impact peoples lives in a positive way on a daily basis for a living.  One of the many benefits of working in a large metropolitan area is the diversity makeup that is Los Angeles, along with the type of challenges it presents to the department. To have the responsibility of protecting everything from the high rises of downtown to the waterfront of the Port of Los Angeles, to an international airport like LAX, all in one city is pretty unique.  I would imagine, not just for myself, but for all of our members, having the ability to show up to an incident when things are at there worst and provide some kind of a solution has got to be rewarding in itself. To be able to make a living by providing help is a nice feeling.

 

 

 
 

Welcome again!

All of us possess the makings of infinite victories.  While each victory is unique in its own right, every victory has the potential to revitalize and/or rebuild lost hope.  This photo blog was created with the intention of uncovering as many victories as possible.  The intention is also to infect readers with possibilities for positive changes and victories.

 

Captain Katriina Clegg, USAF

Me:  You’re an Electronic Combat Officer (ECO) for the United States Air Force. What does that mean really?

Capt Katriina Clegg:  As an ECO aboard the E-3, you are the only aircrew qualified to operate the Passive Detection System (PDS). The PDS is intended to give AWACS on-board identification capability which is a valuable electronic support tool to identify threatening or enemy aircraft and ground emitters (i.e., surface-to-air missile sites). The ECO operates the PDS and evaluates, coordinates, and reports electronic intelligence. I have been an ECO for almost 3 years and now get to instruct and evaluate other ECOs. I like that the job is detail oriented and requires a bit of detective work analyzing parametric data from emitters to determine the identity.

There are many times during flights and/or simulations when detection and analysis need to be completed quickly and correctly. The only way to get better and faster at your job as an aircrew member is through effective mission planning and experience. I like the stress that that comes with the need for accuracy and efficiency.

Me:  Why do people call you Fiin?

Capt Clegg:  The short answer is that I received my callsign from my previous Commander Lt Col Coyle at a callsign ceremony for being Finnish and having 2 ii’s in my name, something that’s constantly brought up in conversations. Longer callsign stories are only told when you buy someone a beer.

Me:  Next time, for sure!  So word has it that on your most recent deployment, you were in charge of all AWACS operations in theater?  What can you tell me about that experience?

Capt Clegg:  I recently returned from my 3rd deployment to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. This was my first deployment that I was not assigned to a flying crew but instead, was the Electronic Support Team chair working with AWACS Mission Planning Cell. I was the subject matter expert and responsible for providing sound tactics, techniques, and procedures in regards to PDS and emitter detection capabilities for 6 deployed crews flying combat sorties. As the point of contact for Electronic Support in AWACS, I needed to coordinate and filter information from electronic intelligence, database support airmen, maintenance, and the 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron in Eglin, FL. I had to maintain the E-3’s ability to correctly detect, identify, and locate emitters of interest to maximize combat effectiveness and threat detection.

It was a particularly exciting and challenging deployment due to the dynamic operations between Syria, Iraqi, and Russian aircraft operating unilaterally in Syria. Also, just before my arrival, we had the first E-3G upgraded Block 40/45 aircrafts arrive to a combat environment and so my team and I had to keep both old and new operating systems updated with current airspace and aircraft information. I learned so much from working with a dozen different career fields and was gratified by the experience because you get to see immediate results of your work in a deployed setting. I had an amazing team of airmen that made my job easier and were a joy to work with.

Me:  Your thoughts about being a leader in the Air Force?

Capt Clegg:  I was at a lecture of Lt Gen Kwast’s and felt validated when he referred to servant-leadership because this is a description I would use to describe great leadership I have witnessed and aspire towards. I believe it is very important for Flight/CC, SQ/CC, etc to understand that they are in their position to serve those below them and especially to be their ‘top cover.’ My last two Squadron Commanders emphasized they were indeed our top cover and gave us the freedom to make decisions and mistakes in order to learn and grow as leaders. The culture bred an atmosphere of trust and professionalism.

While I was honored to serve as a flight commander of over 50 fellow officers, my Lieutenants knew I was always available to them. Just as my commander trusted me to lead the flight, I would in turn, trust and challenge my Lieutenants to take charge of projects and come up with solutions on their own. It is also important to take time for mentorship and continue to pass down insights and lessons learned just as I have been fortunate to receive those from several supervisors and mentors.

Me:  Girls dream about doing different things when they grow up.  Is what you’re doing now anything close to what you had envisioned for yourself when you were younger?

Capt Clegg:  Actually, yes. I have wanted to be in the Air Force since I was a teenager. While growing up in a small town in Michigan, I had never seen or known anyone in the military. My parents took me to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio when I was about 14.  I was in awe of the airmen I saw in their uniforms and I wanted to fly all the planes in the museum. The men and women I saw in uniform looked so professional and confident that I knew I wanted to wear that uniform and feel that same pride I saw in them.

I then started flying when I was 16 and earned my private pilot’s license before attending college. While in college, I realized I did not want to be a pilot for a living but was still interested in aviation and being in the Air Force.  When I found out about the rated flying position, ABM (Air Battle Manager), I knew it was perfect for me. I love that being an ABM is a different job every day and it requires constant learning that keeps me challenged.

Me:  Speaking of challenges, what’s a challenge you’ve turned into a victory?

Capt Clegg:  When I first came into the military, I would get anxious speaking to strangers and being in large groups. I was not shy, just not very comfortable around people I did not know, especially in groups. In the military, you are constantly meeting new people and forced out of your comfort zone on a regular basis.

You can say I am an introvert who has become comfortable being an extrovert when I need to. Briefing small and large groups of people is a common practice as an aircrew member, so over time I have been desensitized to the stress of speaking in front of groups. In the beginning, I would have to practice many times alone and be extra prepared in order to brief groups of people but now, I do not worry about it. Experience and competency in your job builds confidence and it is easy to talk about topics your knowledgeable about.

Although it has been stressful many times, I value my military experience thus far and skills I have gained. I now enjoy flying on the E-3 sometimes with a completely different crew from the previous flight. Now I can appreciate the opportunities to meet someone new and to work with a new group of people, especially since we all treat each other as part of the Air Force family.

Me:  A challenge you enjoy when you’re not in a flight suit?

Capt Clegg:  I am still just an amateur, but I enjoy woodworking. My father can make fine furniture you would buy in a store and I have a long way to go if I am to be as good as him.  For now, I am learning new techniques with each piece of furniture I build. I have made a console table and a couple of side tables so far.  What I like about woodworking is its blend of technical and artistic skills.  It’s something that lets me explore and fulfill my creative sides.