When 1st Lt. Nephtali Castillo was becoming an engineer at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, there were no commissioning recruiters available in Puerto Rico to allow qualified applicants entry to the service’s officer corps. After several years in a civilian position and a stint in Commissioned Officer Training, Castillo is now leading Airmen—and ensuring others from his home island don’t face the same hurdles. In 2020, he briefed then-Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper on the lack of commissioning officer recruiters, leading to change in a matter of weeks. In 2021, he pushed the 156th Airlift Wing of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard to dramatically cut down the time needed to complete the recruitment process, allowing multiple prospective Guardsmen to complete the Oath of Enlistment at the same time through videoconferencing.
Master Sgt. Brent Hill, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, a firefighter in his civilian life, put his military and civilian expertise to use in helping combat wildfires in California this summer. As a tactical air control party (TACP) specialist, he uses streaming video from an RC-26 to direct first responders combating the blaze. The approach is similar to how TACP specialists direct airpower from the ground in combat.
Growing up in an Amish community in Michigan, Senior Airman Eva Chupp was worlds away from her new career as a KC-135R in-flight refueling specialist. Chupp lived without modern conveniences such as electricity and automobiles, but after her family left the community and she attended high school, she decided to join the Air Force. Now, she says, she can help educate her fellow Airmen on the Amish—and explain the value of military service to her Amish extended family.
Chief Master Sgt. Kendall Briscoe calls himself a “selfish” Airman who was “working hard, but playing harder” when he first enlisted. But when a senior noncommissioned officer took responsibility for him, Briscoe grew into a leader, rising to Executive for Enlisted Matters to the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller. By 2021, with 32 years of service, he was the longest-serving Active enlisted member of the Air Force. Briscoe retired on July 31.
Master Sgt. Christopher Florida (r) donated a kidney to his brother Dan, even at the risk of ending his military career. “I love the Air Force and would do just about anything to stay in … but family will always be my exception and accepting that my career could be over was OK with me.” His commander supported his decision and ensured he could stay as a living organ donor. The transplant was successful.
Maj. Raliene Banks was crowned Mrs. Regency International in Las Vegas at the Regency International Pageant on July 31. She plans to use her win to advocate for women in aeronautics. An Air Force pilot for 13 years, before being grounded by an autoimmune disorder, Banks is now deputy chief of Agile Combat Employment for the Air Force.
In an image that went viral on social media, an Afghan child slept beneath an Air Force uniform jacket on the cargo floor of a C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation flight from Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021. The jacket belonged to Airman. 1st Class Nicolas Baron, a C-17 loadmaster aboard REACH871 from the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, which airlifted a record-setting 823 people on that one flight.
Spotting a car crash near Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Master Sgt. Shale Norwitz extracted the occupants from the vehicle and led them to safety, then redirected the flow of traffic until law enforcement arrived. Norwitz credited his response to his military training and being on the autism spectrum. “That makes me good at being a strategic thinker and contributes to my innovation,” he said. Norwitz advocates for those with autism spectrum disorder as part of the Air Force’s Disability Action Team.