News: One Airman epitomizes service before self
Story by 1st Lt. Holli Nelson
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - Service before self is a statement that Air Force members live by each day as they perform missions around the globe. For Staff Sgt. Abel Espinosa, service before self took on a whole new meaning recently.
By trade, Espinosa is a heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician with the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. While going about his duties one day, he noticed that he was experiencing some unknown pain in his abdomen so he checked into the medical facility here.
While being examined, Espinosa, who was experiencing excruciating pain at the time, noticed a sound in the HVAC unit that wasn’t quite right.
“If it continued to run, it could have blown up the motor or caused significant damage to the HVAC system,” said Espinosa, who deployed from the 147th Reconnaissance Wing, Ellington Field, Texas.
By listening to his surroundings, Espinosa was able to diagnose a problem within the HVAC system that potentially saved the Air Force thousands of dollars. All this happened while doctors were informing him that he would require emergency surgery for an extremely inflamed appendix.
Before being rushed to the hospital at a distant location, Espinosa called his fellow civil engineers to ensure that the issue with the air conditioner would be attended to.
“When I know something is wrong, I can’t ignore it,” said Espinosa. “I was thinking about my job and how this could impact the mission, so I made sure it was taken care of.”
Jose Barraza, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. visited Espinosa July 11, before his departure back to the United States, to show his appreciation for dedicated service and placing the mission first. Espinosa was surprised by the coining ceremony in front of his squadron of civil engineers that night.
“Staff Sgt. Espinosa is a credit to his profession and this well-deserved recognition epitomizes ‘service before self!’ How many other folks do you know that would have their minds on the job, while going through such a medical emergency?” said Master Sgt. Ladd Riser, HVAC/R shift supervisor deployed from the 121st Air Refueling Wing, Columbus, Ohio. “He takes not only his job as an HVAC technician, but his role as a non-commissioned officer very seriously.”
Bringing more than 14 years of experience from his civilian and military jobs with him on this deployment, Espinosa said that mentoring Airmen here was one of his best experiences. The dedicated Staff Sergeant took two young Airmen under his wing to help them better understand the career field and how to use their intuition to diagnose problems on different HVAC systems.
“I would give them a problem and ask, ‘what would you do?’ How would you diagnose this issue,” said Espinosa. “Learn everything you can and listen to the people around you.”
He pushed for his comrades and subordinates to stay motived and continue furthering their job knowledge and technical expertise.
“He was my go to guy on matters of commercial HVAC and refrigeration systems,” said Riser, a Pataskala, Ohio native. “He’s always upbeat, jovial and the consummate professional.”
Espinosa will return to the 147th RW as an HVAC technician and continue working in the HVAC industry on the civilian side when he gets back to Texas.