By Airman 1st Class William Tracy
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — There are more than 300,000 active duty service members in the Air Force, with professions ranging from pilots to space operations officers.
Maintaining global dominance in air, space and cyberspace requires different numbers of personnel in different career fields, often fluctuating in demand, and for those that are critically manned, every Airman is key.
Staff Sgt. Brian Parra, currently a satellite systems operator with the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, sought to join a critically manned career field, following his dream to work on aircraft after training and certifying as a flight engineer.
“A big drive for me was to go into something that was critically manned, in addition to it already being something I wanted to do,” he said.
Parra, transitioning from Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, says he is excited to begin his new journey working as a flight engineer on a C-5M Super Galaxy and that his time as a space Airman will greatly assist him.
“The crew coordination between satellite operators within 2nd SOPS puts you in a mindset that it’s not just you out there, it’s a whole operations floor; the discipline they drill into us, following checklists – that’s exactly how it is on an aircraft,” he said. “It’s definitely going to translate to my new role. On a C-5M Super Galaxy, like a satellite, you are looking at so many telemetry points, things constantly changing, constantly adapting, while at the same time listening for the pilot’s communications to ground control.
“The atmosphere of the 2nd SOPS operations floor helped prepare me for it,” he said.
Moving from working with satellites with a keyboard and monitor, to assessing and addressing flight capability for an airplane that can hold an eight lane bowling alley in its cargo department is a stark contrast in Parra’s Air Force service and a testament to the opportunities critically manned career fields give Airmen.
“Here I am about to work on this ‘flying whale’ as I like to call it – I don’t even know how it stays in flight,” he said. “I’m still amazed doing preflight checks, you get a workout going from one section to another.”
Parra said his leadership and fellow 2nd SOPS Airmen were more than willing to help him reach his goals.
“I was worried at first they were going to be insulted that I wished to retrain,” he said. “I didn’t know what the reaction was going to be, but they’ve helped me through everything.”
One of Parra’s mentors was 1st. Lt. Justine Pescetello-Parr, staff instructor with the 50th Operations Support Squadron.
“He sets the example for others to follow in every duty he performs on base and off,” Pescetello-Parr said. “He has the ability to remain calm and positive during very difficult and stressful situations. If he sees something wrong, he takes the steps to correct it and will not stop until the problem is fixed.”
Serving with 2nd SOPS has strengthened Parra as an Airman.
“It sounds kind of cheesy, but since I’ve been here I’ve grown to care for everybody,” he said. “Serving here not only made me better as an Airman, but as a person in general. It was humbling.”
Parra said his transition was made more meaningful knowing he’s going to assist the Air Force in a critically manned career field.
“When helping people who want to cross train, the first thing I pull up is a list critically manned career fields,” he said. “For me, I’m happy I found something that I think is best for myself and best for the Air Force as a whole and helps us both grow.”
For a list of career fields and their quotas in the Air Force, log into myPERS, click “apply for retraining” and select “online myPERs retraining advisory and retraining advisory notes” in step two.
For more information, talk to the appropriate Military Personnel Flight expert.