By Kristian DePue, Staff Writer, Peterson-Schriever Garrison Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. — U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Samples is the noncommissioned officer in charge with the 50th Contracting Squadron’s Rapid Construction Team. The 50th CONS is a component of the 50th Mission Support Group and provides mission partners with agile and innovative contracting capabilities to enable space and cyberspace warfighting superiority.
“The contracting career field is always at the forefront when it comes to change,” said Samples. “The last couple of years, with the stand-up of Space Force and transition to a garrison, we’ve been key to facilitating that change — whether it be updating facilities for our ever-increasing missions, coordinating base support services for an increasing base populace, or buying systems and software to support our satellites.”
“Sergeant Samples provides leadership and mentorship, said MSgt. David Maida, 50 CONS deputy flight chief, base infrastructure. “Samples manages a multimillion-dollar construction contract portfolio and trains others to do the same. He creates a culture of innovation, leadership and growth.”
Maida has known Samples for many years, having worked together at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona ten years ago.
“He’s a self-starter,” continued Maida. “I appreciate his ‘we got this’ attitude. He doesn’t disappoint, delivering results and deals with tough situations.”
Only recently, Samples returned to the 50th CONS, however. Six months ago, completely unexpected, Samples was put into a medically induced coma and remained in that state for five weeks. There were moments when the doctors weren’t sure he was going to survive, but he did. He woke up 30 lbs. lighter and with a beard, unable to walk and not knowing what transpired in the interim.
Staff Sgt. Cindy Delgado, 50 CONS contract specialist, who works alongside Samples, recognizes and praises him as a colleague and as a person of perseverance.
“Tech. Sgt. Samples benefits the garrison greatly,” said Delgado. “The amount of knowledge and experience he has is unparalleled. He’s faced his share of adversities, yet he’s still here, fighting. You’ll leave a conversation with him feeling grounded and humbled after everything he’s gone through. He’s a judgment-free zone; he may not relate to the specific situation, but he definitely has valuable insight.”
In conversation with the P-S GAR’s public affairs office, he opened up about those trials.
Q&A with U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Samples
Peterson-Schriever Garrison Public Affairs: Tell the readers about your background.
TSgt. Samples: I was raised in a small town in West Virginia. I joined the Air Force as soon as I graduated high school. My mother operates a bakery. My father worked in asbestos and lead testing — and environmental control.
P-S GAR: Why did you join the U.S. Air Force?
TSgt. Samples: There wasn’t much around West Virginia for what I was trying to pursue, and I didn’t have the money to attend college. I was in high school when 9/11 happened, and that motivated me to join and help the fight. It was the best decision.
P-S GAR: How has the U.S. Air Force benefitted you?
TSgt. Samples: With being in the Air Force since 17, I’ve grown up in the Force, right? Without the Air Force, I wouldn’t have met my wife; I wouldn’t have traveled the world; I wouldn’t have met a group of fantastic people. Ultimately, it’s allowed me to discover a lot of things I’m passionate about: for one, taking care of people. I’ve become more empathetic. The Air Force has opened doors to connect with people on a higher level.
P-S GAR: Talk to us about your inspirational quote: “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.”
TSgt. Samples: This quote speaks to my experience with workload, people, career choices, thought processes, addiction, mental health — you name it. Everything I’ve ever had, I’ve tried to hold onto in one way or another, despite my best intentions and worst interests. The claw marks signify my resistance to let go.
P-S GAR: Please elaborate.
TSgt. Samples: Five years ago, my father started having health problems and suffered a series of strokes. I became his medical power of attorney. Around that time, I got selected to go to Turkey for a year — away from family, and away from everything that was going on with my father. I still retained power of attorney. That was difficult; I was halfway across the world coordinating care. It was also a stressful time professionally.
With that, I’m somebody who’s battled alcoholism my entire life, since age 13. It was the only coping mechanism I had. Ultimately, I had to address it.
P-S GAR: What your current status?
TSgt. Samples: I’m two years sober. When I say that ‘I haven’t let anything go without leaving claw marks,’ there’s a lot of things I’ve been forced to address personally and professionally that I was, or am, emotionally invested in. With sobriety, I find a lot of benefit in helping others, being a listening ear and relatable to what’s going on.
P-S GAR: You were recently hospitalized for something entirely different.
TSgt. Samples: Sobriety is one thing; my last six months have been another. On November 17th, I went in for a routine surgery that I’d had before. We’re not sure what transpired, but after being discharged, I was back in the hospital within eight hours with acute respiratory failure. I was put into a coma for five weeks, and during that, I had sepsis; I had acute kidney failure, brain bleeds and blood clots. That was just this past Thanksgiving. I was discharged, again, the day after Christmas. It’s been a steady three months of physical therapy to get back to the point of coming back to the office.
It’s been a long road to get back — some of the hardest work I’ve done in my entire life.
There’s still ongoing medical stuff; I’ve seen seven different specialists at this point. It’s something that happened we didn’t have any control over, but allows me to bring a different perspective to everyday life, helping Airmen. It’s another part of my story.
P-S GAR: What are some things you learned, beneficial for readers?
TSgt. Samples: That you’re not alone. Everybody is going through experiences, you’re not the only one having bad thoughts, depressed or having anxious feelings. You have these negative feelings and want to isolate yourself. You want to try to take care of it the best or only way you know how: hiding it, or putting on a good face. There are people out there willing to talk, listen and point you in the right direction.
P-S GAR: How has your wife handled so much?
TSgt. Samples: We’ve been together for 16 years. She has been through the good, the bad and the in-between. She had to make some very difficult decisions while I was in a coma, advocating for my care. She’s one of the strongest people I know. Luckily, she had a great support system, whether that be the squadron reaching out or family coming into town to help with the kids. She’s my rock; she’s the reason I’m still here. If she didn’t know how strong she was before, she does now.
P-S GAR: To end on a lighter note, how do you spend your time?
TSgt. Samples: Golf. I like to golf. I was very athletic growing up — football, wrestling, track, baseball, but I’ve pretty much had to retire from all of those physical activities, but I love to golf. There’s nothing more humbling than golfing. I find a lot of enjoyment in nature and getting out on a good day. It’s been a good sport to find refuge in. I’m also into woodworking. I’ve built dressers and chairs — there’s something therapeutic about it.
P-S GAR: Is there anything you’d like to leave readers with?
TSgt. Samples: You don’t really know what you’re capable of until you’re pushed to the limits. This certainly isn’t the ideal path I chose for myself — but ultimately, I still have a voice and I’m able to convey what I hope to be as positive message to anybody who is willing to listen.