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.

 

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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.

 

Major Ed Pulido, US Army, Retired

Maj. Ed Pulido joined the Army in 1986. In 2004, while serving in Iraq, he hit an improvised explosive device (IED). This resulted in the the amputation of his left leg. For his heroism and valor, he was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, and Joint Service Commendation and Achievement Medals. In commemoration of National PTSD Awareness Day (today), he gives us a glimpse into his recovery with the physical and psychological injuries of war.

Me: You’re an incredibly resilient being. How would you explain that?

Major Ed Pulido, US Army, Retired:  As I see it, it’s the fact that I understood what it was all about to serve my country in uniform. As my father once told me, when you take the oath, it’s about God, country, family, and defending and protecting the American people of the greatest nation in the world. To me, remembering that on a daily basis becomes a huge element that feeds my positiveness everyday.

When I came back from my last deployment with TBI and PTSD, I had to learn about and understand my symptoms to experience victories in my recovery. I had to know what the symptoms were all about in order to be able to remember things, read and write again and to live with the PTSD-the anxiety, the nightmares, night sweats, hypervigilance, rethinking about what I went through and so on…I also had to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t do it alone. I learned about resources that are available to take care of me. I had to let the therapeutic processes work and help me. Bottom line, I had to ask for help, help from God, country, the American people…and to accept the help.

To say that there won’t be obstacles anymore is not true at all. We all have obstacles. It’s how we choose to deal with those obstacles that matters. It has never been easy for me. I have to continue to work on my recovery every single day, even when I’m feeling depressed from something like not being able to get my prosthetic on right.

The game changer really has been my family-my wife, our 2 girls, and my parents. They have been by my side the whole way…Not everyone has a family right now, but you can connect with a family member. It can be someone you served with or someone you call family. At the end of the day, family is the safety net in place for recovery.

Major Nick Elias, OKCPD (part 2 of 2)

Me:  Tell us about yourself.

Major Nick Elias (Commander, Oklahoma City Police Department, Southwest Division): I was born in Phoenix Arizona. I have lived in Oklahoma City since I was 3 years old. I’ve worked since that age. My parents owned Eddy’s Steak House, so I grew up working in the restaurant business. I use to stand on a wooden pallet to clean dishes since I wasn’t able to reach the counter. Most of my weekends and holidays were spent working with my family.  I can cook for a multitude of people, prepare and organize large events. My dad personally taught me these skills.

I’ve been with the Oklahoma City Police Department now for 30 years.  My wife and I have been together for 12 years.  My son is 21, my stepson is 20 and my stepdaughter is 25.  I enjoy spending time with family, volunteering/ training our future leaders through Scouting, working out and getting things accomplished around the house.

Me:  What’s something you’re not really good at?

Maj Elias:  I would definitely say making time for fun and taking a break from work. I’m great at working and staying busy all the time. I rarely, if ever, take time for family or friends. I’m horrible to take on a trip. I’m most comfortable when I’m accomplishing a goal, not relaxing.

Me:  Misspent youth kind of story?

Maj Elias:  I would say my vice during my youth was with cars and speeding.  I loved to drive fast. I’ve had a lot of speeding tickets. I think I was on probation until I graduated college. I would go to court every six months and be placed on probation so the ticket wouldn’t go on my record. I still remember driving south bound on I-35 to Norman, OK and being impatient with two drivers going the speed limit and taking up both lanes of travel. I drove around them on the right shoulder of the road. I failed to look directly behind me to see the OHP Trooper. Yep, I earned another one. I received a careless driving ticket, but at least I didn’t go to jail.  When I decided to join OCPD, the one thing I felt was going to keep me from being hired was my driving record. I don’t drive fast anymore, mainly because I know my own mortality and I’m not in a hurry to get to my grave.

Me: Being a police officer seems like a pretty dangerous job.

Maj Elias:  Having a career in law enforcement can be very dangerous. Officers go to heated or violent situations every day. The reason they are so successful most of the time is because of the numerous hours spent training. It’s normal for people to think they will live forever. If we worried about dying, no one would ever leave their home. I’ve always looked forward to going to work and getting involved in something exciting. In the past, when I’ve been involved in fighting a subject who had a weapon or responding to an armed robbery in progress, I’d focus on the successful outcome of that one incident. Most police officers have a warrior mindset. They’re not joining because it’s safe, they’re joining because they want to make a positive difference for their family as well as others in their community.

Me:  Do you think about the dangerous aspects of the job while on the job?

Maj Elias:  I absolutely think about the risks during the entire shift. You have to be thinking about what actions you might need to take when going to a call for service in order to have a successful outcome for everyone involved. Police work is more mental than it is physical. To be truthful, one of the most difficult jobs on the department is being a dispatcher. They handle stressful situations when people call in, assign it to one of the officers who may also be a friend and never know the outcome of the situation. Not having a resolution to a critical incident is very stressful.

Me:  Stress management is pretty important to having a successful career.  How do you deal with the stressful aspects of being a cop?

Maj Elias:  It’s great to go home at the end of a shift. I normally see how my family’s day went and relax for a couple of hours to get my mind off of work. It’s not really different than anyone else with a career. It’s only different when officers don’t come home on time or don’t come home at all. Then it affects all of the officers and their families.

I like to talk about things that bother me. I talk to family, friends, and other officers. We have a fantastic support system set up at the police department. Our Chaplin Charlie Phillips is a police officer who has worked the front line for many years and understands the stress of being a police officer. He is trained to deal with a wide range of issues affecting officers. We also have an Employees Assistance Program and the Chapps Program (Cops Helping Alleviate Police Problems) and the Chaplin Corps. I’ve grown up in a Christian family, I’ve also been taught to respect the beliefs of others. I have seen God working in the lives of those I serve as well as my own. It would be difficult to do this job and not believe in something greater than yourself.

I have a great support system at home, my neighborhood and in the community. I may be a little biased, but my experience with people from Oklahoma has been very positive and supportive. We have many great citizens who contribute to the success of our City. I have worked with many City officials and police officers over my 30 year career. I can say without hesitation-we have the best police officers I’ve ever seen. This does not happen without leadership from the top. Chief Citty has been an excellent example of making positive and proactive changes over the last 14 years as Chief. He genuinely cares about all of his officers and works on giving them the tools they need to do the job more effectively.

Me:  How has being a police officer influenced who you are?

Maj Elias:  Being a police officer is an honorable profession, but it comes with a price. It means you will hold yourself to a higher standard than others in the community. You will be held to a higher standard of accountability if you break the law. You will be scrutinized for everything you do because you hold others accountable for their actions. Without a doubt police officers are trained to look for those who break the law, those who choose to rob, rape, steal, assault or even get a traffic ticket. The hardest thing for officers to see is the positive influence they have on others as a result of their decision to become a police officer. My personal views have been shaped by my personal experiences with people and they seem to change the older I get. The bottom line for me is I chose to believe in people otherwise I wouldn’t do this job.

I’m not as good at being a husband as I am a police officer.  Like many officers’ spouses, my wife didn’t choose to be a police officer, but she gets to be one anyway. She gets to hear the complaints and deal with the stuff I deal with on a daily basis. I put her “on hold” when I receive a call from work so I can deal with issues that arise. It’s not uncommon in police work, but it takes a toll on a relationship. My wife is a Saint!

As a father, I had more time to spend with my son when he was younger. I made time to be with him and be involved in his life. I will take his call even if I’m in a meeting. It might be short, but I’ll take his call. My stepson and stepdaughter are very independent and responsible young adults. They really don’t need my guidance, but I’m available if they need me. They rely more on their mom than they do me, which is probably a good thing.

 Me:  Tell us about your involvement with the Boy Scouts.

 Maj Elias: My first wife’s dad was an Eagle Scout, her brother was an Eagle Scout and my son was going to be an Eagle Scout. It’s a family tradition. I got involved when my son crossed over from cub scouts into boy scouts. I was going to troop meetings for my son’s sake, not because I enjoyed it. I quickly found out Scouting was about building future leaders in the community and nation by teaching them ethics and morals through the scout oath and law. They learned about citizenship, finance, fitness, first-aid, science, backpacking, family life, law, you name it and we might have a merit badge for it.

I quickly realized the value scouting had not only for my son, but for other kids whose parents were not involved. I later became a merit badge counselor and Troop Committee Chair. There, I found other adults whose values, mission and vision were the same as mine and they weren’t cops. It was a diverse group of men and women coming together for a common purpose-developing future leaders and being able to leave a legacy for future generations. My son earned his Eagle Scout Award in 2010 and stayed in Scouts until he went to college. I felt then I was done with Scouting when my son left the troop.

Being in the Scouts has given me a positive outlook on our future generations. I don’t normally get that interaction being a police officer. It’s important for me to be proactive and doing something positive for our future, not just whining about it. Also, I have a great relationship with my son, but going camping in Philmont, New Mexico during the winter or sweating through summer camp at Kerr Scout Ranch at Slippery Falls seemed to make it unforgettable. I will never regret doing things with my son and I have memories that will last a lifetime. I hope other parents will do the same.

I later realized Scouting has more layers than an onion. I received a call from the District Executive asking if I would be on the District Committee. No longer would I be going to a weekly meeting for just 1 hour a week. I would only be going to a meeting 1 hour a month. Sure, sounded like a good exit plan to me. Well, I’ve been on the District Committee for 4 years and serve as the Vice-Chair. I’m still having fun, but it’s with the adults who run the program for the pack, troop and or crew. I’ve also continued to serve on staff for Wood Badge.

Wood Badge is the BSA’s premier leadership training course for adults. You have to be at least 18 years old to attend this training. The first Wood Badge course was held in 1919 by Sir Baden Powell on Brownsea Island. Although the program has evolved, the Wood Badge program is still being held, only it’s world-wide. There are two phases to the leadership training. First is the practical phase where participants attend a 6-day course over two weekends. The second part is the application phase. This is where the participants put what they’ve learned into action. They work to accomplish 5 goals within a 6 to 18 month period. The reason this program is so valuable is because it trains the adults to become better leaders for our kids, in their careers, as well as the communities they serve. If anyone is interested, here’s the link for more information http://lfcwoodbadge.org/WB2128/

Major Nick Elias, OKCPD

(Part 1 of 2)

Me:   What’s something people might not know about the Oklahoma City Police Department?

Major Nick Elias (Commander, Oklahoma City Police Department, Southwest Division):  All across Oklahoma City, we now have about 200 body cameras for our officers.  These body cameras are utilized by evening shift officers.   We expect to expand the program in the future when funds are available.  These cameras have been extremely beneficial.  Our officers turn the body cameras on for Priority 1 & 2 calls for service and traffic stops.  Once the cameras are on, everything goes on record.  If there is a review process, for example, if an officer is involved in use of force or if there is a complaint filed, we will review the body cam video.  Most of the time, our officers have done nothing wrong.  When we go back and look at the footage, it’s great, because it tells the whole story. Most of the time, the complaints are not substantiated.  Regardless, use of the body cameras can go a long way to establish transparency and build trust with the people we serve and protect.

Our policy as police officers is to always treat people with respect, even in stressful situations or situations where we have to make split-second decisions.  Like anyone else though, we police officers are human beings.  Human beings make mistakes.  For instance, sometimes you might be in the heat of battle or in a dangerous situation, strong words may slip out.  When we do make mistakes, our actions are reviewed. The review process is then reviewed up through our chain of command to the Chief.  The officer involved may need to be disciplined, take remedial training, etc.

The Oklahoma City Police Department as a whole has been growing and moving in a positive direction.  I have not seen one problem case here at this division.  I’ll be real honest with you, I’m really glad we have the body cameras.  I prefer to have my actions on camera.  That way you know the truth.  There’s no he said, she said or ‘Well, of course you’re going to take the officer’s side.’  It is what it is.  I have all the confidence in the world my officers are doing the right thing, so I’m really not worried.

Me:  Tell me about something you’ve been through that sticks out in your mind?

Maj Elias:  After the Murrah Building Bombing in 1995, I was working at the Hefner Division.  The FBI had called and asked, ‘Hey, do you have any officers that can come up here?’ At the time, we didn’t know what it was for.  We went to the FBI office and met with Agent Chuck Choney.  I wasn’t expecting it to happen, but we then went to US Marshall’s office to pick up Timothy McVeigh and transported him to Tinker (AFB) for his arraignment.

McVeigh didn’t have the confident look on his face as depicted in the media back then.  This guy was extremely scared and in a bulletproof vest.  In person, he looked like a young kid right out of the military, worried and not grasping what was really happening to him.  If you were to just go off of his appearance, it wouldn’t have raised any red flags.  Right there’s one of the scary parts to policing.  What does a bad guy look like?  You never really know.  Anyway, the memory of being part of something like that so randomly has stayed with me since.

Another incident that comes to mind happened when I was dealing with a guy really putting up a fight and resisting arrest.  A different guy, one I arrested and put in jail on a different day, saw what was happening, ran over, and started to help me.  Later on when talking with the guy that helped me, he said, ‘No, (the arrest) was my fault.  You were fair with me.’  That has always stuck with me.  Just treat someone fairly.  I’m not a judge.  We as police officers have a job to do.  The fact that this guy, someone I arrested during another day’s work, thought enough of me as a police officer to come help me had me wondering if I should start treating everyone extra, EXTRA nicely!

Me:  What didn’t you hear early on in your career that you try to communicate with your officers now?

Maj Elias:  Slow down.  I was always quick, take the next call, go to the next one, look for this, and look for that.  I wanted to accomplish a lot.  Looking back, I wish I would’ve known to slow down.  I only thought about looking for the criminals. Now the culture of our department is such that our officers look for opportunities to connect with and help the community out.  They see some kids out in the neighborhood, they take the time to stop, maybe play some ball with them and talk with them.  When I was first hired on, my Lieutenant or Sergeant would see that as goofing off.

The perception, being engaged with the public, we do a lot better job now than before.  We were a lot more standoffish when I first came on.  You didn’t talk to the police or call them unless you were in trouble.  Now we’re actively engaged in the community and doing other things besides stopping people, checking them, and writing them tickets.  I think that’s the right attitude.  I do wish that I would’ve been more perceptive earlier on in that regard.

While the culture of policing has changed over time, the common theme has always been helping people.  We get to help people by holding them accountable.  For the most part though, it’s helping citizens who need advice or don’t know who to ask for help, or how to receive services.  The best part is being able to provide assistance to people that might not be a police issue.  It’s like being there for your mom or your dad, being that person to turn to when he or she has nowhere else to turn.

Me:  What have you struggled with the most in your career?

Maj Elias:  My biggest obstacle was dealing with the needs of many different people in society.  Their perspectives, life experiences, culture, values and beliefs can be very different.  Trying to alleviate their problems or issues can become very complex.  The law does not cover every incident an officer deals with.  I’ve had the greatest amount of success by listening and building relationships in our community.  I’ve met many people who are in the business of helping others.  One example is Jan Peery who runs the YWCA’s Battered Women’s Shelter.  She has provided services to many women and children who had nowhere else to go in a domestic situation.   Without people like her, our job would be extremely difficult.

Me:  What are you not really a fan of in your line of work?

Maj Elias:  Paperwork.  Police work is probably 95% paperwork and 5% excitement.  Paperwork, that’s what keeps this place going.  It’s the highlight of my day whenever I get to get out from behind the desk, show up with my officers, take a call, and feel like a real policeman.  Most of the time for me, I’m in meetings and doing paperwork.  I’m not as engaged as I used to be at this level, but I sure do miss it.

Me:  What’s something you feel really proud of, something you’d consider a huge win?

Maj Elias:  I’d say my best victory has been seeing others succeed, which is often.  I used to just focus on myself and what I wanted to achieve in life.  Then I realized it’s not about me, it’s about helping other people succeed no matter what your job is.  If you help yourself, you’ve helped only one.  If you help others, everyone wins.  I’m a big believer in teamwork and diversity.  The team will overcome many difficult obstacles. Having a diverse group ensures we don’t get stuck in single minded thinking and we stay on track.  It’s like having a football team.  You wouldn’t be very successful if you had all quarterbacks.

Me:  How would you like to be remembered?

Maj Elias:  Our police department is extremely employee-centric.  That’s who we are.  The leaders serve our officers more so now than we ever have before.  Before, you didn’t talk with your Captain, your Major, or anyone in your executive command.  You talked maybe to your supervisor and you didn’t look at the other senior officers.  Now we try to figure out what our officers who are actually doing the job need. How can we support them?  How can we best help them to perform optimally?  It works out really well for all of us.  I think it’s a generational shift and technology has helped a lot.

I’d like to be remembered as someone who was supportive, honest, fair, and gave good advice.  I want people to know it’s important to foster an environment where it’s ok to mistakes. You learn and grow from your mistakes.  I’d be happy to just be remembered as someone who was supportive and helped others along in their careers.

Erving Otero-Chiclana, US Army

Me: How did you end up here (Hawaii)?

Erving Otero-Chiclana:  I was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami, FL.  I joined the Army about 5 years ago.  I’ve been here in Hawaii on TDY for about a year now.

Me: What are some things you love about serving in the Army?

Erving Otero-Chiclana: Being a paratrooper!  I’ve been on 3 tours to Afghanistan and hey, I got to jump out of a helicopter and right into the middle of the ocean!  Also, one of the best things about being in the Army is about knowing that we are able to make a change in the world.  No regrets there.

Me: The most beautiful place you’ve been to?

Erving Otero-Chiclana:  Next to Hawaii, it’s a tie between New Zealand and Thailand.

Me:  The most trouble you’ve been in?

Erving Otero-Chiclana:  I have to say it was when I was at Ft Bragg…part of being with the wrong crowd.

Me: What would you want your family to know about you?

Erving Otero-Chiclana:  Just for the impact I’ve made on my family and how important they are to me.  I hope they’ll know that anything and everything I’ve ever done was for them.  I just want them to be proud of me.

 

Jessica Conklin

Me: Congratulations on receiving the United States Air Force Materiel Command 2016 Key Spouse of the Year Award! Tell me about the Key Spouse program for your husband’s squadron and what it’s like to be a military spouse.

Jessica Conklin: Thank you! The Key Spouse program for the 72nd Security Forces Squadron is about helping out spouses of those deployed and improving the morale of the squadron. When you first get married to the military, you have no idea what to expect. The Key Spouse program is about mentoring our younger spouses, letting them know what being married to the military is all about. Mainly, knowing that they’re not alone, that someone else is here for them if they need anything. We have social media, like Facebook pages specifically for deployed spouses where we’re constantly encouraging and supporting each other. We have deployed spouses’ get-togethers and dinners several times a month. I always just make sure they know I’m here if they need anything.

My husband has been on multiple deployments. He used to be K-9, so he’d be gone all the time. It could’ve been a few days to a few months or longer. When I first married into the military, I knew that’s what I was doing, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. During my husband’s first deployments, we didn’t have any kids. It was easier. I just worked and I had friends. When I first would find out he was going to be gone for a long time though, I’d get really emotional.

When you throw kids in the mix, it’s even harder. They don’t understand why their daddy’s not coming home from work, why he’s gone, why they can’t see him or talk with him. It was the hardest when they’re little. As they get older and with our technology, now that we have Skype, it has helped tremendously. My husband’s last deployment, he was in Afghanistan and we got to Skype with him almost every day. It was a tremendous difference from his first deployments when all I could do was write him snail mail letters and possibly get a phone call here and there.

Now that I’m older, married to the military life longer, and I have kids, I just deal with it. You have to. You have to just be like, okay, you’re going to be gone for 6 months? We can do this! I have to be able to function. I’m not just taking care of myself anymore. I have 2 other persons I’m responsible for. They’re the most important people in our lives. For our kids, I have to be able to function and take care of them. Life has to go on. You can have a pity party for yourself every now and then, but you have to suck it up and press on, that’s the military way.

To be a military spouse, you have to learn to be very self-reliant, understanding, and patient. Your spouse can’t tell you everything. You just have to be able to trust them, understand that’s their job, and be supportive. There are day to day things that happen on the Base that they’re involved in or first on the scene for, not just things that happen when they’re on deployments. You gotta learn where you can ask questions and where you can’t. You learn over the years. Some things they’re just not allowed to share. If they share it, they could get in trouble.

I feel really good about being able to adapt, overcome my insecurities, and become a stronger and more independent person over the years. My husband and I were high school sweethearts. We’ve been for married over 17 years now. I will say we have better communication now than we’ve ever had. I don’t know if it’s now that we’re older and wiser or we now have that open communication that we didn’t have when we were younger. Now we have a better understanding of each other. I think he’s gotten a little softer being that we’re parents now. We’ve arrived at a happy medium. He’s not always a hard-ass now, you know?

Major Brian Jennings, OKCPD

Infinite Victories: When did you know you wanted to go into law enforcement?

Major Brian Jennings: I knew when I was in high school I wanted to be a police officer.  To be honest, I would watch the TV show, Cops, and thought how exciting that job would be!  I then went to college and one of my professors was a former Chief of Police for Oklahoma City.  He really convinced me further by talking about what a great profession it is.  We get to help people on a daily basis and no day is ever the same.

Being a policeman isn’t at all like you see in the media or TV.  The job is extremely difficult and stressful but it’s all worth the reward of helping people in need.  The hardest part of the job is seeing all the negatives in the world on a daily basis.  To counteract that, I try to surround myself with positive people.  What I do love the most about the job is that there is something different every day and the opportunity to help and serve the community.

Infinite Victories:  What’s one piece of advice you’d offer someone who is interested in a career in law enforcement or is a newbie within the department?  

Maj. Jennings:  Always remember why you got into this career – it’s about helping and serving the community.  I’d also like to see some of the younger officers who have great potential start to move up in rank. I think this can be accomplished by helping them with career development through broadening their work experiences and to think outside the box.  I believe the benefit is they can now be the leaders of tomorrow and help shape the Department in the right direction.

 

Lorenzo Araujo, MD

Infinite Victories:  How did you get into psychiatry?

Dr. Lorenzo Araujo:  I’ve been a psychiatrist for approximately 35 years.  The last 10 years have been with the VA, taking care of Veterans.  I knew I was going to be a psychiatrist by the time I entered medical school.  I was initially an art student.  I went to school for acting in the Dominican Republic.  I was drawn to painting, sculptures, and languages.  Coming from the countryside, my family did not approve of these for a career.  They wanted me to have a traditional career.  When they pushed me to be a doctor, the only kind of doctor I believe I could do was a psychiatrist.  In my country, psychiatrists had a more liberal attitude, more of a social involvement.  I knew if I’m not going to be an artist, I could be a psychiatrist.

Infinite Victories:  What’s something challenging about being a psychiatrist?

Dr. Araujo:  Coming from the feelings of being an artist, the most challenging part has been the style of living.  As an artist, I was set to go travelling, to be abroad, to be in different places all the time.  As a psychiatrist or physician, you have to be in one place.  You have to be in an office every day.  You have to learn to do the same thing every day.  That was not my life plan originally.  On the other hand, seeing different aspects of humanity has become rewarding and I enjoy getting to work with and understand both healthy and sick persons.  I have the opportunity to see people at different levels of their conditions, to do psychotherapy with them.   Underneath those presenting with different or difficult behaviors are very sophisticated human beings with deep sensitivities and capacities for multidimensional emotions.  It’s an extremely rewarding field of work.

Infinite Victories:  Two years ago, you lost one of your children, Laura Araujo, to a murderer.  Burying one’s child defies the sequence of life events that we expect to happen.  What has it been like for you to live with this tragedy?  (For readers:  One of Dr. Lorenzo Araujo’s children, Laura Araujo, was only 23 years old when she was beaten and strangled by a resident in the building she had just moved into.)

Dr. Araujo:  Being a physician for 35 years and helping people to deal with and calm their pains, I felt it was kind of a test.  I’ve been helping others for this many years and giving them consolation or ideas on how to deal with their pain and now if I collapse on my own, was I being truthful with others?  Was I a fake, a charlatan?  I was telling people I did not feel, so this test brought me to a simplified place, to take a spoon of my own remedy, to take the remedy I’ve been telling others to take for many years in the moments of pain and sorrow.  In a way, I’ve been trained in pain, to face the unexpected reality of the pain from the death of my child, her memory, her disappearance.

I wrote a collection of poems to help me deal with Laura’s murder.  I dedicated this book of poems to both Laura and her murderer.  When I think of her dying, of course it’s natural and risky for me to get distracted, distracted in the way of feeling that I want revenge, punishment, menacing, etc.  It has been the greatest challenge to not to fall into the trap of wishing for those things on my daughter’s murderer or to have any feelings that are very common to appear, to emerge in this type of situation.  It has been my path to hold, in terms of maintaining, and not deviating from what we belief are natural in life.  This affords me the responsibility to maintain emotions in its shape and to follow the commitment for love, serenity, and acceptance.

Infinite Victories:  What kinds of things do you hope for?

Dr. Araujo:  Growing up religious and as a Christian, what I conceptualized was talking with Laura and talking with Jesus.  With Jesus, I’d tell him, if you offered me the opportunity to ask you for one wish, to bring her back to life, it would not be asked.  I would not ask him to bring her back to life.  I would ask him to leave her exactly where she is.  What I wish I could ask Jesus is to help her murderer, to change him.  My most fantastic wish will be that the murderer had her heart placed in his chest.  That would be his punishment, to feel what she used to feel and that he deeds the things she had wanted to do and now cannot.  Ultimately, I wish him not be jailed, but on the contrary, that he becomes a dove, fly freely in the air.  I wouldn’t ask for anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

Lieutenant Colonel Kristen Thompson, USAF

Infinite Victories: Tell me a bit about the Vikings?

Lt Col Kristen Thompson: The 960th AACS Vikings are one of the newest operation squadrons in the 552 Air Control Wing, certainly one of the squadrons that go out and fly the AWACS more as a combat line squadron. We’re completely geared towards combat operations. Everything we do in the squadron is geared towards training and being a better operator so when we go into combat, we go there and kick tail.

Infinite Victories: What’s an experience that has influenced your approach to leadership today?

Lt Col Kristen Thompson: Towards the end of a deployment at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in the Middle East, I got a call from my mom about my dad’s brain cancer relapsing, except this time, it was terminal. I had not been home in 3 years due to living overseas and on the deployment. I’m the junior to my dad. He and I were very, very close. It was very hard for me to go through that.

This is a sad story, but it has made me more empathetic as a leader. I had senior leaders take very good care of me. I feel like I personally owe them for life for what they did to help me to make it home, to make sure I saw my dad before he died. I feel forever indebted to them for it. After that experience, I’m now so much more empathetic towards people’s lives in general. Specifically, in my job now, I don’t just run things from an ops perspective. My chief concern is health, morale, and welfare of my Airmen and my Vikings’ family members.

Being a squadron commander is the best job in the Air Force. I’m at a level now where I get to fly, but I also get to take really good care of people I supervise. This is a critical time where I can really make a difference in people’s lives because I have so many daily interactions on a personal level with folks. That part for me is the pinnacle of everything, to be able to help and influence so many people. That’s something I take great pride in.

Infinite Victories: Tell me about an unusual experience.

Lt Col Kristen Thompson: I got to fly and land the first NATO E-3 in Afghanistan. What was actually great about it was all the different nations all contributing to one mission. We were all from diverse cultures, training, backgrounds, and approaches to problems. I had 9 different nationalities on board with me, all devoted to flying a command and control mission in Afghanistan, and all under the spirit of NATO fighting in Afghanistan. It really celebrates how far we’ve come with NATO.