When the opportunity arises to take on a challenge, maybe a little bit of risk, and something that’s not 100% comfortable, do it.
That’s Capt. Paul Day’s message for aspiring Air National Guardsmen.
“Any given moment in your career, you’re going to be presented with an opportunity to take on a challenge you may not feel fully prepared to take on … but don’t be afraid to take on that challenge because that’s where the greatest rewards come from,” said Day, the 2022 Air Reserve Component Company Grade Officer of the Year.
Day earned the aforementioned honor, in part, due to his leadership and development role with Agile Combat Employment missions during his deployment to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
Day deployed in January 2022 with the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Airlift Wing and was the unit’s chief of plans and operations in the anti-terrorism office.
While overseas through July 2022, Day was the officer-in-charge for the mission set. He managed two missions that, according to a news release, included “developing equipment lists and working with U.S. Air Forces Central Command to secure necessary equipment. These ACE missions took him and his team to undisclosed locations throughout the region.”
Day said he was told that there wasn’t necessarily a plan in place, but “AFCENT needs you to develop the equipment package.” After returning from the first mission, Day said, he wrote a “pretty robust” after action report documenting what went well and would could be improved.
One of the biggest – but also exciting – challenges, according to Day, was they created the plan organically.
“As the lead of security, there were a couple big challenges,” Day said. “[We were] really starting from scratch, so you know where you’re going and a little bit about that location.”
But to protect assets, speed was key.
“You can’t bring a lumbering, logistics footprint with us that would slow us down,” Day said.
His work was ultimately used AFCENT wide. To reach that point, according to Day, he met weekly – sometimes multiple times per week – with leaders of “each key function” for the mission sets. Those meetings included developing a common terminology so that, for example, defenders and bombers would be on the same page.
That was critical in the second mission to helping “codify counter-SAUS [small unmanned aircraft systems] capacity.”
Day also was involved with Operation Allies Refuge, working at Holt Field in Wisconsin as Afghan refugees were brought stateside. He oversaw roughly 40 airmen who were tasked with transporting refugees from Holt Field to a nearby Army base.
“It was very eye opening,” Day said. “It’s a humbling experience. I got to see, especially women and children, as they walk off the change, seeing the United States for first time and almost a sense of relief, also some excitement … [and ] trepidation.”
Day learned in early 2023 he would receive the Air Reserve Component Company Grade Officer of the Year award.
“It was pretty exciting,” Day said. “Probably the best part of it honestly was getting the email from Col. [Victor] Moncrieffe, the ‘Top Cop’ for the Air National Guard] … his email and just talking about how and why I won the award and that was probably one of the highlights. I have a lot of respect [for him] … He’s an outstanding officer and representative of our career field. So to get the accolades from him was pretty amazing.”
Still, receiving the award wouldn’t have been possible without his team, Day said.
A third-generation airman, Day enlisted in the Air National Guard in 2014 and commissioned in 2018. His grandfather served in Korea, while his father served during the Vietnam War. Day said he always wanted to serve, but became a police officer after graduating college. A friend on the force was in the Air National Guard and spurred him to join at 30 years old.
He now serves with the 190th Air Refueling Wing.Read comments