By Kristine “Aster” Medina, Copy Editor
Her work day begins at 0730.
She reviews plans to fly made the day before; prepares for takeoff by checking safety equipment, seats, and communications suite; and then executes the missions with her crew.
Once she takes off on the jet and all systems are on, she manipulates the radar to coordinate and maintain the most accurate command and picture of aircrafts within the assigned airspace.
The day ends at 1630.
She is Capt. Juliette “Optyc” Simpson, a charter sister from the University of West Florida. She commissioned as a second lieutenant with the United States Air Force on April 29, 2011 and now serves as an air battle manager and air surveillance officer.
Simpson received the 2018 Military Meritorious Service Award from the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) on May 16 at its 33rd National Leadership Training Program in Arlington, Va.. She was one of 13 recipients from across the country who serve in the military.
“The 13 winners of the 2018 Military Meritorious Service Awards have distinguished themselves by promoting the tenets of civil/human rights, equal opportunity, human relations, and/or public service,” FAPAC President Olivia Adrian said in a press release. “We chose these men and women and minorities in senior grade level positions and under-represented jobs.”
FAPAC is a non-profit organization that represents Asian American and Pacific Islander American employees in the federal and District of Columbia governments. The award recognizes individuals who have made an impact on military missions and equal opportunity in the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders communities.
Jennifer “Salomé” Albesa, Simpson’s biological older sister and fellow charter sister at UWF, said their parents were accepting of Simpson joining the military. They only asked that she finish her degree and commission instead of enlisting after high school. Before commissioning, Simpson was also a part of Air Force JROTC at Pensacola High School and Air Force ROTC at UWF.
“Service to our country is what helped bring my parents to the United States,” Simpson said. “Ever since I was younger, I think a part of me always wanted to serve and give back to the country that gave my family the opportunities for a better life.”
Simpson said her favorite part of the job is working with enlisted crew members. She leads the surveillance section of the mission crew, which consists of men and women as young as 19 and include four to five enlisted members who aid in tracking air and surface targets.
“Although my job title is air surveillance officer, I’m an officer first,” she said. “Being able to actively lead and mentor is what makes me love my job.”
The aid of the new airmen is crucial to determining the good and bad guys. Simpson also said she likes to interact with senior enlisted members who have been on active duty for more than half her life because of their wealth of knowledge and experience she learns from daily.
Albesa said that the military has always been a good fit for her sister because Simpson always pushes herself to be better. Albesa thinks that discipline is the virtue Simpson most embodies out of the sorority’s seven virtues of loyalty, honesty, respect, dedication, discipline, and academic excellence.
“She’s the kind of person who, if told she can’t do something, will do anything she can to prove that person wrong,” Albesa said about Simpson. “She’s pretty headstrong and opinionated, so she will always let her voice be heard.”
Even within their own family, Albesa said Simpson always takes the lead in making decisions and helps to create a strong sense of purpose as a united front.
“A dedicated female leader is a woman who is proactive (no time to wait for others to tell me what I can or cannot do),” Simpson said on what it takes to be a dedicated female leader. “Sometimes, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”
Simpson works alongside her husband Nate Simpson, who is also an air battle manager in the Air Force. She gave birth to their first child last March.
“My job in the Air Force inherently requires a good understanding of leadership,” Simpson said. “The decisions we make not only affect us on the jet, but they affect our brothers and sisters who are deployed on the ground. And they directly impact our country and our way of life. Knowing that my small role on the jet affects way more people and understanding its impact drives me to do my absolute best every day at work. I’m dedicated to my job and our mission. I’m dedicated to show the world what I can do not only as a female, but an Asian American female.”
Featured and Article Images: Special to The Jade Times