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Airman uses Latin American ties to strengthen partnerships

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Robert Hicks
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Growing up on the country side of Jalisco, Mexico, he  would wake up early every morning to help his family on the farm before having to walk 45 minutes to school. It was then he knew he would have to do to create a better life for himself and his family.

“It wasn’t a problem, I knew what I had to do to help my family,” said Tech. Sgt. Horacio Guzman Hernandez, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron air advisor.  “I would come home from school to feed the animals, milk the cows, help out around the farm and find time to do my homework late at night.”

While Guzman and his family worked on the farm, his father would travel back and forth to the United States for several years as a seasonal worker to provide extra income for his family.  After years of migrating between both countries, his father decided to move the family to Manteca, California.

“When I found out we were moving to the U.S. I didn’t really want to go,” he said.  “I enjoyed where I lived and liked working on the farm, but I knew, if I wanted to have a better life and do something else I would have to leave.”

At the age of 17, Guzman left his beloved home and moved to California where he enrolled in a local high school.

“My first year in high school was challenging for me,” Guzman said. “I was a normal student, but I was in these classes where I couldn’t understand the language, the teachers or the work; all I wanted to do was stay home.”

He went on to add how he wanted to give up and start working, but his family and the school provided him with a great support system while offering him and other students' English lessons.

“Although there was a language barrier, I still excelled in math,” Guzman said. “It took me two years to graduate high school, where I learned to read and write, but still struggled to speak the language.”

After graduating high school, Guzman joined the Air Force in 2007.

“I joined the Air Force because I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself,” he said. “I knew it would be a challenge for me, but I wanted to pursue a higher education.”

He also explained how he was the first person in his family to join the Armed Forces.

When I first joined the military, my family was skeptical and had second thoughts, but now they know the Air Force was a great decision,” he said.

Throughout Guzman 10 year career, he has been stationed here, deployed three times and relocated to three different squadrons around the base.

“I have been pretty lucky throughout my career,” Guzman said. “I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world and work with not only our sister services during operations but with coalition forces as well.”

Guzman currently works as an air advisor partnering with Colombia and Uruguay air forces as the team lead sergeant in cargo airdrop operations.

The 571st MSAS is charged with strengthening partner nation’s capabilities and the squadron trains, advises and assists partner nations in developing airpower capabilities. The unit includes Spanish-speaking Airmen and is aligned with the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility.

“It’s very rewarding seeing our partner nations air drop capabilities grow to the level where they can participate in a U.S. led exercise and accomplish the task to U.S. Air Force standards,” he said.

Guzman went on to say, one of his highlights in the MSAS is knowing he contributed directly to the success of the program.

Also, during his time in the 571st MSAS, the squadron developed a program that would train Colombian Air Force service members to be instructors so they can in turn train other service members on airdrop operations.

“I can’t ask for a better job,” he said. “I get to use my native language skills as well as my knowledge of the Latin culture to portray a positive image of the Air Force and help strengthen the relationships between the countries.”

Guzman recalls that when he first enlisted in the military his plan was to do six years and get out, but he fell in love with the Air Force and the camaraderie within the units, and now he plans on making it a career.