SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
The Weasel of the Week series asks Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, heroes, experts and all-around great Airmen to share their likes, dislikes, Air Force spirit and personalities. We sat down with Staff Sgt. Jacob Mendoza, 77th Fighter Squadron aircrew flight equipment non-commissioned officer in charge, to get to know him.
Name: Staff Sgt. Jacob Mendoza
Unit: 77th FS
Job: NCOIC AFE
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Short Term Goals: Be promoted to technical sergeant the first time.
Long Term Goals: Complete a Bachelor’s degree in Project Management.
Why did you choose aircrew flight equipment as your job when you joined the Air Force?
I honestly didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do when I joined the military. I’m the first of my family to join the military and didn’t have any kind of experience or background with it, so I pretty much signed up and got whatever I got.
I think there are pros and cons to the military. People come in with a certain mindset. Sometimes they think it’s going to be a certain way and it’s not, but not necessarily in a bad way.
Why do you want to continue to work as an AFE Airman?
At first I didn’t know if I wanted to always do this job, but I think my turning point was in 2015 when one of the pilots had to eject; he ejected using one of the parachutes I packed. He’s alive and survived with no injuries, but I think at that point my whole mindset of this career field changed.
It was stressful because they weren’t able to tell us if he was alright or not … I was just hoping and praying that he was alive and that (his equipment) had worked the way it was supposed to.
That happened in July and the following October the same pilot deployed with us. On one of his missions he flew an American flag (with him) and printed out a certificate for me. On the certificate it said “because of you I’m alive today.”
Just the fact that he took the time to write that himself on the certificate saying thanks meant a lot.
I don’t think anyone thinks the day might come when they will have to eject and use our parachutes, or any of the other equipment, but at the end of the day, I think they know the importance of our job.
How would people describe you?
I don’t know, but hopefully, they would describe me as being lively. When I’m not working I like to ride and work my motorcycle.
I’ve been riding for years and bought my first motorcycle here at Shaw back in 2014. A couple of buddies and I like to ride down to Saint George, S.C. It’s a nice ride … we can take all the back roads so there is no traffic.
Riding is my stress reliever. When I’m feeling stressed I just hope on a bike and ride with no destination for an hour or two – it helps me clear my mind.