BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
Some people feel they are born to serve, and for one former Greek soldier a year wasn’t enough. Traveling more than 5,000 miles, he set off to join the ranks of the world’s greatest Air Force.
Senior Airman Alex Katsigiannis, 2nd Security Forces Squadron confinement supervisor, was born in New York City, but moved to Greece at the age of four, where his father was originally from. He grew up in a very loving family, considering himself to be spoiled as a child.
“My parents taught me to always do the right thing, that's what influenced me to want to help people,” Katsigiannis said. “My dad would always tell me ‘Λεβεντιά μου, πάντα να κάνεις το σωστό,’ which means ‘my lad, always do the right thing.’”
However, he found himself at a very low point in his life in 2010 after unexpectedly losing his father. This moment in time, he recalls having to grow up fast, no longer seeing himself as that spoiled kid anymore. He liked superheroes growing up, but never saw himself as someone who could make a difference. Two years later, he had to complete his mandatory service to the Greek army, volunteering to join the special forces.
“When I joined I realized I needed to help people because I saw some bad things while I was in,” Katsigiannis explained. “My eyes were opened about more things on what’s going on around the world.”
That's when Katsigiannis realized law enforcement was not only his calling, but also a way to help people within his community. After his mandatory service concluded, he tried to continue serving but wasn’t able because a government hiring freeze was in effect at the time. His next plan, to join the national police force, was also thwarted for the same reason. In 2013, his service commitment ended and he had to readjust his plans.
“I started doing various jobs. I worked retail jobs, held a position as a storage worker, factory jobs here and there, it was mostly retail though,” Katsigiannis said.
He had hoped the hiring freeze would come to an end, but after a couple years without any luck he knew he needed to make a change to obtain his goals. He looked into all the branches of the United States military and concluded that the Air Force was the best option for him and his future. With a solidified plan, he sat down to have a talk with his wife, Paige, who was at the time his girlfriend.
“In the beginning, realizing that such a decision would totally change our life created mixed emotions,” Paige said. “But sometimes it's preferable to get out of your comfort zone and accept that some decisions in life are difficult yet worth it in the end.”
In October 2017, he joined the Air Force and was shipped off to basic military training to enter into security forces, his number one job choice.
“The first night of BMT when it was lights out I was telling myself ‘why am I doing this a second time in my life?’” Katsigiannis said with a laugh.
After graduating BMT and technical training in 2018, he was notified that his first duty assignment was Barksdale. That same year he traveled back to Greece to reunite with his family and marry Paige. It was the first time he had seen them since before leaving for BMT.
“It was definitely hard not being close to family and not being able to see or talk to them on a daily basis during that time. Today I still feel lonely because it's not easy being away from them like this, but you know I don’t believe that any person in the world could give the amount of support that my wife gives to me,” Katsigiannis explained. “I do believe that people do it, but it's rare to find people like that to be very patient and supportive while trying to help you go through life.”
Katsigiannis is still currently working with Paige to get her a Green Card so she can move to the United States, a process that on average can take up to 15 months or longer according to Katsigiannis.
“There's an eight-hour difference between here and Greece, so Paige and I are very thankful technology has advanced so much that we can actually facetime and see each other. We’ve only been able to make it work with a lot of communication and trust,” Katsigiannis said.
Despite all this, with Paige by his side, he has fully immersed himself in his career field by being a part of many initiatives to help create change within the Air Force, won many awards and was also selected to be promoted to senior airman six months early as a Below-the-Zone recipient.
He also created a Foreign Language Roster for the 2nd SFS, a list of all Airmen who speak different languages which allows the 2nd Bomb Wing to better take care of the base populace by helping break down communication barriers.
“Alex is a man who did not let the difficulties in his life drag him down. He emerged stronger, more determined, more down to earth,” Paige said. “He sets a goal, he achieves it. That’s extraordinary. By leaving the place he grew up in and travelling all alone to a place far away he proves that no dream is beyond reach.”
His passion for law enforcement led him to join the Bossier City Police Department reserve academy in July 2019 as an unpaid volunteer in his off time.
“I see it as ‘two uniforms, one mission,’ because the missions are pretty similar,” Katsigiannis said. “To me, it's beneficial because you get different perspectives, broaden your horizons and you start realizing how different military law enforcement is to civilian law enforcement. And because it's a volunteer thing, I’m not getting paid, but it's not about the money. It's about learning, educating yourself and getting the proper training and experience you need in your life in order to achieve your goals.”
With no end in sight to Katsigiannis’ “service before self” attitude, he plans on continuing his military career to follow his passions and make a difference in the world around him.
“I have something that I say to myself pretty often, a quote by Edmund Burke which loosely states, ‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to sit back and do nothing,’” Katsigiannis explained. “Which is why I will not sit back and do nothing.”