Voices of the VaANG: Airman Drake Gillespie

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Lucretia Cunningham
  • 192nd Wing

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. In fact, I remember being out there [in Richmond] and multiple people in my chain of command, all the way up to our squadron commander, walked by me and asked ‘Are you okay? Are you feeling nervous?’ But I think that’s one of the cool things about being in the armed forces—having the people around you to look out for you. I don’t think any of us are necessarily ready for a lot of things we’re going to experience, but that’s part of the culture we have; we look out for each other.

I think we all did our part out there. But I’ve always believed—while it’s not necessarily everyone’s dream to learn about radio systems—it gives you the upper-hand when you do want to go on to do other things. So, of course, when they were looking for volunteers, I was one of the firsts to raise my hand. At the time, I didn’t know it would actually play a huge part. When we were activated, it would become my job to ensure we had radio communication and operability with the Virginia State Police and local authorities.

Outside of the Guard, I work part-time as a manager at my county’s parks and recreation fitness facilities. Being a member of the military is actually part of how I became a manager. It gives your employer the sense you’re used to having to do things, figure it out, and be able to get it done. I was one of the only people out there with less than a year of experience in security forces. In fact, I was the only one out there with less than a year. So, I was also just making sure I was able to keep up and learn as much as I could on the go.

The most rewarding part was when we were able to just hear updates come over the radio; we were all able to be on the same page. When we first got out there, we had hit some problems where our radios weren’t functioning the way they were supposed to. I had to go through and actually change each and every radio—they just weren’t set right. After the first night and hitting that little snafu, being able to clearly get instructions without having to send runners back and forth the rest of the time was definitely very satisfying.

The experiences, the benefits; all of it is worth the time you’re away from your family and all the times you’re put into a situation you may not have the experience for, but you have to get it done because it’s just part of getting the mission done. At the end of the day, it’s fulfilling, it’s rewarding and it gives you a sense of accomplishment.”
—Airman Drake Gillespie, 192nd Security Forces Squadron security forces apprentice