Always aiming higher: Andersen NCO earns chance to commission
Andersen Air Force Base, Guam -- One step at a time and fueled by his drive to succeed, an Andersen Airman recently earned a place in line to commission.
Tech. Sgt. Luis Reyes, an aircrew flight equipment craftsman, is slated to commission through Officer Training School by way of the Senior Leader Enlisted Commissioning Program – Active Duty Scholarship.
Pushing past the troubles of his youth through hard work and dedication has allowed him a chance to progress in his career.
Growing up with an Army father, Reyes’ family moved frequently during the first eight years of his life before settling down in Orlando, Florida. At the age of 17, to remove himself from certain peers and a toxic environment, he dropped out of high school and moved to a new town for a fresh start.
Despite the drastic shift, the teenager put his focus into working to better himself through education and part-time jobs – quickly earning his General Education Development certificate in place of a high school diploma and continuing onto community college.
“I lived out on my own when I was 17,” Reyes said. “I had three jobs to pay the rent, eat and pay for the few classes at community college. For transportation, I rollerbladed everywhere, because I didn’t have a car.”
Three years later, despite determination and drive, college had become too difficult to pay for with part time jobs alone. Reyes knew he wanted to follow his father’s military history. While he wanted to complete his college degree to become an officer, he decided it was time and enlisted in the Air Force by signing the infamous dotted line at age 20.
“During the first four years of my Air Force career I regained the trust of my family,” Reyes said. “That was one of my greatest accomplishments. My fuel is to be responsible and successful so that my family can be proud of me. I work hard for my family and so my nephews and niece can have someone to look up to. Maybe one day, they'll go to college or try to join the Air Force themselves.”
The sense of accomplishment Reyes felt early in his Air Force career fostered a passion for the Air Force that hasn’t dwindled. One of his priorities, he said, is to pay back all the good he has received during his career.
"Right in the beginning when I had one stripe, I had a supervisor look at me not as a troubled kid, but as the future of the Air Force and that was a huge game changer for me," Reyes said. "It felt so good to have someone believe in me and not categorize me into a stereotype. That kind of impact changed my life so significantly and I feel like I need to pay that forward to everyone else."
Reyes said he does his best to be involved with Airmen and make a difference every day by filling roles such as adviser to the First Four, a private organization consisting of Airmen E-4 and below. His hard work and dedication have paid off and brought his dreams within reach, he said. As he works toward his own personal growth, he remains focused on helping Airmen grow by providing them their own opportunities to lead and learn.
“My goal in the military is to ensure Airmen know that what they do each and every day is important," Reyes said. "There is no doubt that part of my job is to know and take care of my people."
In pursuit of his goals, Reyes chose three potential commissioned career paths in the areas of airfield management, maintenance and force support squadron services, he said. The selection will be based on the needs of the Air Force, but Reyes said he hopes for placement in one of these areas through the SLECP-A.
The program is for active-duty enlisted members who do not possess a bachelor’s degree, but can attain one within three years’ time – allowing Reyes to complete his undergraduate degree before progressing to OTS.
Fifteen of the Air Force’s highest ranking leaders to include the secretary of the Air Force, chief of staff of the Air Force and chief master sergeant of the Air Force each select one candidate to remain on active duty and attend an accredited school before attending OTS after graduation.
Reyes said he was stunned when he received a call from Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, who had selected Reyes to become an officer. He had to take a moment to register who was calling and understand what was happening.
"I felt like I was in my own personal movie," Reyes said. "It was a huge shock to the point where I laughed involuntarily. But afterward, I cried tears of joy and happiness. This blessing proved that if you work hard enough, with the right team, dreams can really come true."
Throughout his career, Reyes has had many mentors and supervisors who provided him with the guidance and encouragement to strive to be his best.
“I've known Tech. Sgt. Reyes for a little more than two years and I can say without a doubt he has earned every opportunity presented to him,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jason Long, 56th Operations Support Squadron superintendent of aircrew flight equipment at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. “First and foremost, he consistently displays an exceptional level of commitment to duty.”
Long was Reyes’ supervisor and superintendent during his time at Osan Air Base, Korea and is now his wingman and mentor.
“At Osan, Reyes juggled a high operations tempo in a perfection-driven Air Force specialty with several leadership roles in base-wide organizations along with off-duty education,” Long said. “He was able to excel at all of those things, but more importantly, he demonstrated the leadership qualities necessary to be effective in higher positions.”
Reyes’ dedication to effectively leading and influencing Airmen makes him an outstanding candidate to commission, Long said.
“His attention to detail and ability to perform at high levels will make him a highly effective officer, Long said. “The Air Force will now and forever need top quality leadership and I have no doubt Luis Reyes will provide the best to those he will lead.”
Reyes holds his enlisted experience in high regard, but he is looking forward to completing his degree and commissioning through OTS, where he hopes to further hone his leadership skills.
“I would never be here without my 10 years of enlisted experience," Reyes said. "I'll treasure it until the day I die. Knowing about the enlisted traditions, heritage and culture will fortify my leadership as an officer. It'll make me that much more effective, not only to my peers, but to my team.”
Whether near the flightline, working to ready aviators for flight, or near the proverbial flagpole at wing headquarters – Reyes said he gives credit for his success to his wingmen throughout the Air Force and his family.
“A saying from one of my mentors is, 'If you see a turtle on top of a fence post, you can bet that it didn't make it there on its own.' I didn't make it here on my own,” Reyes said. “I have been very fortunate that I've had supervisors, peers and subordinates that helped me, pushed me and taught me along the way. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart, because without them I wouldn't have gotten this.”