By Kristian DePue | Peterson-Schriever Garrison Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. — Having served in the U.S. Air Force for nearly two years, and being stationed at Schriever Space Force Base for a year and seven months, Senior Airman Christopher Thao, 50th Communications Squadron network operations technician, has found himself already being interviewed for his efforts and accomplishments. Soon after Thao enlisted, he quickly discovered the defining benefits of the Air Force.
“Before I joined the Air Force, I was kind of a free spirit,” said Thao. “I just wanted to hang out and have fun in life, you know? However, that quickly left me feeling lost and wanting more.”
In just a short period of service, Thao found direction within the air service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“I’m part of the backbone of the garrison,” Thao said. “Our specified work is not at the forefront, but we have our hands in almost everything on base … from security forces scanning IDs at the gates to enabling force support squadron clearance processing, accessibility to payroll services, and to duty phone support for commanders, chiefs, first sergeants and department heads. Our list goes on and on.”
Thao grew up as one of six kids in Warwick — a city in “The Ocean State” of Rhode Island — and is the child of Vietnam War survivors.
“A lot of my family members died in the Vietnam War,” said Thao. “Through their sacrifices — running [in] jungles, getting shot at, evading mines [when] my dad was only 12 years old — he, my father, came to America. Not knowing a word of English at all, and subjected to racism, [my father] was able to strive ahead, get a degree and a good job — allowing us, my siblings and I, to experience the American Dream of him coming from nothing and us living with something.”
The mission of the Peterson-Schriever Garrison is to evolve space and cyberspace warfighting superiority through integrated and innovative operations.
“We contribute to the success of the Space Force and Air Force mission of the Peterson-Schriever Garrison by maintaining and modernizing Schriever Space Force Base’s cybersecurity posture and space mission systems, therefore supporting the newly, [and] overall larger, P-S GAR’s objectives,” said Thao.
With the example of his father coming to the U.S. and making something of himself — and with the knowledge of his elders sacrificing so much for that — Thao, himself, is now making an impact upon his squadron, his base, and for the garrison.
“Senior Airman Thao is a very important member in making the mission of the P-S GAR run effectively,” said Staff Sgt. Vincent Washington, 50th CS network operations supervisor. “Thao’s work ethic and attention to detail in his key duties enable success across each installation.”
Thao works with the Department of Defense’s main interconnected computer networks, SIPRNet and NIPRNet: the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network and Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network, respectively — the latter of the two is for nonsecure communications.
“Specifically, as a network administrator, his contributions keep our networks safe and available by maintaining and defending NIPR and SIPR networks so that the P-S GAR can effectively maintain air, space and cyberspace superiority,” said Washington. “His latest accomplishment was leading the virtual desktop interface implementation base-wide. Due to Senior Airman Thao’s perpetual contributions, he was awarded senior airman below-the-zone this year.”
Senior airman below-the-zone, or BTZ, is a program that allows those with the rank of airman to promote to senior airman six months early.
“I appreciate Senior Airman Thao’s positive attitude and motivation,” said Washington. “Everything he sets his mind to he does to the best of his ability. He sets a great example for every member in the work section and we are proud to have him as a part of the 50th Communications Squadron.”
Thao thought he was fine as a free spirit, but he ultimately wanted more. Thao felt lost and wanted discipline and direction, which isn’t something people often admit to — but for Thao, who set aside his pride, it paid-off in dividends.
“I’m very happy with my decision to join. I’m very certain I’m in a much better place than I would be without the Air Force,” said Thao. “I was a ‘free spirit,’ as I like to say, and I was making a decent living, but I needed a disciplined path to live, work and thrive within — and the Air Force gave me that.”