BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La., Dec. 21, 2018 —
One Airman from southern California has a passion for helping others and improving the environment.
Since before he joined, Senior Airman Francis Dennis Fernandez, 2nd Munitions Squadron cruise missile flight technician, has given his free time to keep the planet clean and continues to work hard even now that he is miles away from home.
“There are Airmen you struggle with and then there are Airmen you don’t have to worry about,” said Staff Sgt. Timka Peltonen, 2nd MUNS bay chief and Fernandez’s supervisor. “He’s great at balancing work and volunteering in the community. He frequently tries to get others in the shop to find volunteer and leadership opportunities.”
Fernandez uses his dream of becoming a remotely piloted aircraft pilot to fuel his education goals. He has a bachelor’s in kinesiology, which is the study of the mechanics of body movement, and is working on a degree in aeronautics with plans to earn a master’s in aeronautics unmanned systems.
“I have a lot of friends who work on the outside as RPA pilots,” Fernandez said. “You can't get your certification without first going through military training. So I hope to get trained, while still serving my country. Then eventually, do what I love on the outside.”
While working on his second degree, he uses his extra free time to help Airmen. He has organized an Independence Day cookout, an Air Force Sergeants Association barbeque, free dance classes and multiple community cleanup events.
Fernandez is the Airmen Activities and Events Coordinator for AFSA, which gives him the resources to lead events like dance classes and community clean-up events.
“I came to AFSA asking how I could start a community cleanup program and from the get go they gave me mentors,” Fernandez said with a smile. “They offered me resources and gave me the funds needed to get equipment for volunteers. Without that support I don’t know if I would have been as successful with my efforts.”
Typically, he leads a team twice a month, picking up trash in the community. His efforts have brought together more than 90 Airmen to clean up more than 1,100 pounds of trash from the Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana, area earning recognition from the local organization, Shreveport Green.
“Volunteers are the greatest resource to having a clean and beautiful city,” said Donna Curtis, Shreveport Green executive producer. “We are so fortunate to have Barksdale in our community and to have young Airmen like Francis helping to make this city beautiful. The fact that there are men and women that don't live here permanently but want to clean it, is a wonderful act of kindness. I am very impressed with the Airmen of Barksdale.”
While anyone can pick up trash, Fernandez doesn’t stop there.
“Currently to assist other Airmen, I have been helping lead the community clean up in my place because I believe it is a good opportunity for Airmen to practice their leadership skills,” Fernandez said.
By encouraging other Airmen to lead, he hopes they take those first steps to get to the leadership positions that they want to be in.
“Trying to be part of any and every step of the leadership process is a great way to build the qualities needed to be a good leader,” Fernandez said.
The core values can make or break an Airman’s career. Being in a new place can put anyone to the test, but Fernandez proves that helping others and having excellence in all you do can make a new place feel like home.
“Our core values matter to me because adhering to them validates my efforts here,” Fernandez said. “By joining the Air Force, I am, for the first time, not within the comforts of Los Angeles and I am far away from my friends and family. By striving to do the best I can while I am serving away from home is what makes the stress worth it.”
Fernandez encourages other Airmen to succeed with this advice:
“Don’t be afraid to take initiative,” Fernandez said. “Think about something you want to do that you feel is rewarding and is also consistent. Find a mentor, whether it be in your shop or somewhere across the base. Having someone that has already experienced what you’re going through can help guide you properly; it can make everything you do more effective and productive.”