Tech. Sgt. Jose Ojeda: 20 years of determined service

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jeremy Roman, 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Every 301st Fighter Wing Reserve Citizen Airmen has a story behind the uniform and brings a unique life experience to the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command. Many of the jobs these same Airmen perform might not be ‘high visibility’ in nature but are no less important because it takes every member of the unit to make the mission happen. One such unit, the 301 FW Safety Office (SE), plays an essential role in mission success and sustainability and we feature one of their Airmen who demonstrated determination by completing more than 20 years of military service.

Tech. Sgt. Jose Ojeda, 301st Fighter Wing Occupational Safety Technician and Traditional Reservist, served in the Air Force Reserve for the past 14 years but first began his career with Active Duty Air Force in 1987. He recalls his first assignment as an avionics technician maintaining the F-4 Phantom aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

“We still wore the green fatigues and had E-4 ‘buck sergeants’ back then. Yes, I am that old,” Ojeda said. “[Due to close proximity], our avionics flight assisted our counterparts at George AFB, Calif., [home of the F-4 Wild Weasel] when they needed support and we also deployed together in OPERATION DESERT STORM. Before I left Active Duty, I was assigned to support the YF-23 Advanced Tactical Fighter Program when it and the YF-22 competed for the spot to be the Air Force’s next generation fighter. The F-22 won the contract and the YF-23 program was put away.”

After separating from Active Duty in 1993, Ojeda continued serving on the civilian side with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Aerial Law Enforcement Division [Office of Air and Marine] under the DHS and would later transition to become an investigator and airworthiness inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration. In the middle of his civilian career, he felt a determination to continue his military service and joined the Air Force Reserve in 2007.  

“Originally, I applied as a candidate in the chaplain corps but found no position availability,” he said. “Undeterred, my fallback plan was to enlist into my [previous] avionics Air Force Specialty Code [job] which I did until 2012 when I found a position within the 920th Rescue Wing Ground Safety Office, Patrick AFB, Fla. I have been an occupational safety professional since then.”

The responsibility which comes along with working in the wing safety office coupled with his avionics expertise made for an ideal place Ojeda wanted to be.

“Our SE office has very high tempo dynamics because it’s involved with much more than just 301 FW safety matters [it includes supporting facilities throughout this joint installation],” he said. “I don’t think this wing could have made my stay any more challenging, educational, or successful. My leadership allowed me to accomplish all that I set out to do while I was here, and then some!”

The 301 FW mission—to train and deploy combat-ready Airmen—would not happen without the contributions from SE. From facilities to protection equipment to training or responding to emergencies on a flight line, these Airmen demonstrate the importance of preparation, readiness and education.  

“Yes, we are a major part of this mission and strive to make sure the wing trains safely. We make sure the wing deploys safely,” said Ojeda. “I am convinced this unit takes this ‘safely’ part of the mission seriously…it is a constant in people’s mindset these days [and rest assured] we are not out to ‘bust’ or reprimand anyone. Our role is to learn what you do, see how you do it, and offer ways to manage and mitigate the risk involved in what you do. We are here for our people and I enjoy being there in any way I can by offering what I know to help them do their job…safely.”

Safety is a near and dear subject to Ojeda as he further explained how SE fits into the mission.

“You will hear people say, ‘Safety first’... yet that’s not entirely true,” Ojeda said. “’Mission first, safety always’ should be the mindset. It is an educational process, both for me as a safety professional, as it is for my fellow wingmen. I enjoy how everyone I have worked with to date takes this mindset seriously because that’s what we do and why we are all here—the mission.”

Whether in or out of uniform, a strong sense of duty should come as no surprise for the Texas native from Del Rio, a small town near the Mexican border approx. 150 miles west of San Antonio.

“I decided early on to serve in the military for several reasons. I have family who are WWII and Vietnam veterans,” said Ojeda. “My dad, and one of my uncles, served in WWII and two of my three older brothers are Vietnam veterans.”

Another reason for enlisting was because his family could not afford to send him to school.

“In an off duty environment, I challenged myself to get a college education. I chose this as a personal challenge after having graduated high school so poorly in 1986,” he said. “I completed an electronics degrees [magna cum laude], and a double master’s program in 2010 [with distinction]. I challenged myself to prove to myself that I could do it.”

Ojeda accomplished all of this while working full time as an aviation officer and putting his two daughters through school and college, as well, saying this may have been, one of if not, his greatest “professional” accomplishment.

Not one to seek acclaim, he acknowledged it was not a solo journey.

“There are so many people to thank. From Active Duty, Master Sgt. Charlie Clark took me under his wing and mentored me to be a responsible wingman. Richard “Moose” Moore showed me the ways of fighter aircraft avionics. It has been almost thirty years since serving with them and I still stay in touch,” he said. “In the Reserve, everyone in occupational safety who has educated me, worked with me, and put up with me. All in all, I really must thank my wife and daughters for sticking with me during all this. The sacrifices they made to allow me to serve is something I will always be thankful for and I am grateful to my Lord and Savior for giving me health and strength to serve all this time.”

As his military service comes to an end, this determined veteran shared some final words to the 301 FW family he will miss and to the Reserve Citizen Airmen coming after him.

“We are all here because we want to [serve], not because we have to. Do what you do as best as you can, and then do it a little better… and have fun doing it too,” he concluded. “When it’s time to leave, make sure you leave the place better than you found it. Take life seriously because we only have the one life we live. YOLO [you only live once]? No, you only die once…we live every day. Make them all count!”

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