By 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Staff Sgt. Heeyeun Joo, 50th Contracting Squadron contract administrator, spent a full week getting ready to conduct a video teleconference briefing for Gen. Jay Raymond, Air Force Space Command commander, Nov. 15.
As a junior non-commissioned officer, the task of briefing the general on behalf of her squadron was a daunting endeavor. She didn’t want anything to go wrong, no surprises. However, despite all her preparation, there was one thing she couldn’t see coming.
“I was about three slides in when General Raymond notified me that I was his selection for the Senior Leader Enlisted Commissioning Program-Active Duty Scholarship,” Joo said. “I was overjoyed and in complete shock. I could not hold back my tears. When he informed me I was his pick, I was grateful beyond words and in disbelief that I could be granted such a huge honor.”
The program allows senior leaders across the Air Force to hand-select enlisted members to attend Officer Training School and earn a commission as an Air Force officer. Airmen are able to complete their degrees while remaining on active duty with the oversight of an ROTC detachment for administrative purposes.
Joo’s mentor, 2nd Lt. Michael Kilbourn, 50th CONS plans and programs flight commander, assisted Joo with her application.
“In my view, getting selected for this program is incredibly remarkable,” Kilbourn said. “All commissioning programs are highly competitive, but this takes the competition to another level. Given the one-to-one selection ratio, there is a lesser chance to be selected than some of the other programs that might have a larger number of slots allocated or a small pool of applicants.”
For Joo, the opportunity to commission fulfills an Air Force dream.
“Commissioning was a goal I’ve had since I was an Airman 1st Class, but was often put on hold so that I could focus on excelling at immediate tasks/duties,” she said. “Ultimately, I decided to put in for the program because I knew I would regret not taking the chance.”
While the selection came a surprise to Joo, it was no shock to her supervisor, Master Sgt. Jason Kieffer, 50th CONS base infrastructure flight chief.
“Joo is the type of Airman every supervisor wants,” he said “I’ve been doing this for a long time and the quality work she puts out is light years ahead of her peers. Her drive is what separates her from others. She has goals, big and small and every step she takes is with them in mind.”
Even though Joo will be moving on from the enlisted ranks, she hopes she won’t have to move on from her contracting family.
“We were told to pick three desired Air Force Specialty Codes and my number one was 64PX, contracting,” she said. “This is the job I am hoping to get as an officer.”
A contracting officer himself, Kilbourn knows full well Joo is up to the task.
“Joo epitomizes Airmanship,” he said. “She serves selflessly, is committed to excellence in that she gives her absolute best always, and is highly credible. She sets a high bar in her conduct and is a person we should strive to emulate.”
Joo, who moved from South Korea to the U.S. when she was a child, said she joined the Air Force because she felt a need for purpose and ability to make change. She feels commissioning amplifies both objectives.
“Being selected for this program will allow me to affect change from a broader scope and be an inspiration to others,” she said. “Leading by example is exactly what I aspire to do every single day. When your work ethic and actions speak for you, there is nothing you can say that can better prove your willingness to sacrifice for others and the Air Force.”
Kieffer and Joo both pointed to Kilbourn as the driving force behind getting her package submitted to higher headquarters. However, for Kilbourn, seeing Airmen like Joo succeed makes it all worthwhile.
“The most rewarding part of helping Airmen with these programs is watching them identify milestones, and then being blown away when they develop and execute a plan to reach the finish line,” he said. “My hope is that an Airman putting together an application to commission becomes a microcosm for tackling any lofty goal they may have once thought was improbable.”