Pentagon major earns Hispanic award

by Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (AFNS) — A major on the Headquarters Air Force staff received a professional achievement-military award at a ceremony Oct. 9 during the 2009 Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference in Long Beach, Calif.
While he’s honored to receive the award, he feels earning it serves others more than him.
“I consider my time in the Air Force as spent doing my job and doing my best to accomplish the mission,” said Maj. William M. Ochoa, deputy chief of the Nuclear Analyses Division in AF/A9, Air Force Studies and Analyses, Assessments and Lessons Learned. “I believe this award is meant to motivate others, those who feel they are the furthest from achieving their goals.
“My Hispanic heritage as a first-generation Cuban American, coupled with this determination, serves as an example to young people of all backgrounds to set ambitious goals and stay committed to achieving what they have set out to accomplish in their lives,” the major said.
Major Ochoa is a 1994 graduate of the University of Florida, where he was commissioned through AFROTC Detachment 150. He earned a master’s degree from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., in 1998. His Air Force career includes duty as a Minuteman III missileer before becoming a C-5 Galaxy and C-21 pilot.
The HENAAC awards also honored several Air Force members as “luminaries.”
According to HENAAC officials, luminary honorees are highly respected by their peers and management; are valuable authorities in their fields and are blazing the trail for future generations of engineers and scientist. Luminaries are selected from submissions received for all of the standard nominations categories.
The Air Force luminaries are Lt. Col. Karen M. Castillo, deputy director of contracting, and human resources and corporate development officer for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in Arlington, Va.; Capt. Christine Palomo Navarro, a KC-135 instructor pilot at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.; and Michael Dominic Gallegos, chief of infrastructure management branch at Kirtland AFB, N.M.
As the deputy chief of the nuclear analyses division within AF/A9, Major Ochoa said he helps provide assessments and analytical rigor in support of the congressionally mandated 2009 Nuclear Posture Review. The division is also involved with on-going arms control negotiations between the United States and the Russian Federation to establish a follow-on to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the major said.
“In addition to these efforts, we are involved in developing an assessment framework in order to gauge the long-term health of the Air Force Nuclear Enterprise,” Major Ochoa said.
The major cites his family, former commanders and the Air Force overall as the motivators to his successful career.
“The biggest motivators in my life are my wife and our two children,” Major Ochoa said. “The other large motivator in my life is being able to serve this great country and to have the privilege of being a pilot in the number one Air Force in the world.
“I have had some excellent squadron commanders throughout my years in the Air Force and have maintained relationships with some of them,” he said. “Their thoughtful advice and mentorship at key decision points throughout my career have played a key role in my success thus far.”
Major Ochoa offered parting words of advice to anyone wanting to succeed in their endeavors.
“Don’t give up on your dreams,” Major Ochoa said.  “I didn’t.”

Twenty years for Russ

 The Beatles have a very familiar song which starts out, “It was 20 years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play.” Well, Sergeant Pepper didn’t teach me how to play but three military training instructors welcomed me to Lackland Air Force Base in the early morning hours.

Today marks my 20th anniversary in the Air Force. Wow, 20 years. It doesn’t seem like it could be possible. Back in August 1989, this day seemed so far away. Twenty years later, the time has flown.

My flight was the first one to wear the battle dress uniform. There were many Airmen who wore the fatigues. Those who wore them told me they were comfortable. Now, BDUs are gone…replaced by Airman Battle Uniform.

Early in my career, Airmen eagerly sought field training opportunities because it gave them a chance to do their job in a war-time setting. Now, the Air Force is expeditionary. Airmen are deploying frequently to war zones. Some are doing their jobs, and others are serving in Joint Expeditionary Taskings. They are bravely doing a war-time role outside of their normal careers.

The Air Force has been good to me, though the past five years have been rough. Spending a year in Korea, six months in Afghanistan and six months in Iraq—and let’s not forget require professional military education and training—I’ve been gone almost as much as I’ve been home.  While it’s been hard for me, it’s been even harder for my wife Lisa.

The Air Force has given me a chance to see the world. I’ve lived in England, South Korea, Honduras, Afghanistan and Iraq. I’ve also visited Scotland, France, Germany and Kyrgyzstan. I’ve had the honor of working in the Pentagon, first in the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office and now in Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs.

Most importantly, the Air Force indirectly set the conditions up—assignments and friends—for me to find the love of my life…my wonderful wife Lisa.  It’s almost been six-and-a-half years since we were married. Through that time, she’s bravely dealt with me being away. If there’s been any personal good in my absences due to unaccompanied assignments and deployments, it’s reminded us how much we love each other.

Thank you, Air Force, for 20 years.