Wing welcomes new Command Chief

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Emily Rautenberg
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing
July 2018 was filled with changes for the 514th Air Mobility Wing as it welcomed a new leadership duo: Col. Thomas O. Pemberton, Wing Commander, and Chief Master Sergeant Dana L. Capaldi, Command Chief.

Capaldi comes to the Freedom Wing from Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, where she served as Chief Enlisted Manager and Functional Manager for Aircrew Flight Equipment. Capaldi is even the first female functional in her career field in the Air Force.

Capaldi comes from a long line of service members. Both of Capaldi’s parents were in the Air Force and her brother was an A-10 crew chief, also in the Air Force, before he took a job with Boeing. Her grandfather fought in WWII, and when she traced back her father’s family tree, she found that her family has actually been involved in every American conflict.

“I’m a total genealogy nerd!” said Capaldi. “I’m even part of Daughters of the American Revolution.”

She joined the Air Force when she was 17 years old and actually needed her parents’ permission to sign up.

“I wanted to travel worldwide and get far away from home,” Capaldi said. “I’m from a small little farm town in Southern Illinois that no one ever leaves. I didn’t want to be stuck there. Ironically, after I went to basic training, I went to tech school at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois, and my first assignment was at Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana. I didn’t really get out of the Midwest, let alone the country.”

After completing basic training, Capaldi was assigned a position in aircrew life support, a field she was unfamiliar with.

“When you first come in to the Air Force, you may have to learn to love your job” she said, “You have to give the Air Force some time. As with anything new, you have to allow yourself time to grow and adapt. You have to give it a chance.”

Capaldi, who initially was resistant to her field, eventually learned just how important it was.

“The Air Force helped to cultivate talents I didn’t even know I had,” she said. “The Air Force helped me become more comfortable in my own skin.”

Cultivating talent in the Freedom Wing is also one of Capaldi’s main focuses in her new role as Command Chief.

“Professional development and human talent management are my top priorities,” Capaldi said. “At this point in my career, it’s not about me anymore; it’s about everybody else. I want to get our Airmen where they want to be, but also where they fit into the mission and the greater enterprise.”

Capaldi is a big proponent of mentorship and recalls how different it was when she was a young Airman.

“When I was growing up in the Air Force, there wasn’t really any ‘formal’ thing called mentoring,” said Capaldi. “There was no one telling me to do my professional military education in residence, no one really checking in with me.”

This is often a problem with traditional reservists, she said. Since they are only in the office part time, and often have a lot on their plates during drill weekends, there isn’t always someone checking in asking what their goals or desires are.

“We do a much better job of vectoring people forward now,” she said. “But I want to take my experience of not being mentored, and not having those check-ins, and use it to make sure other people do have those opportunities.”

For new Airmen, Capaldi recommends finding a mentor as soon as you can. A mentor does not always need to be a supervisor; a mentor can be a peer. Mentoring, she explained, is not strictly vertical, but also horizontal.

“I have an Airman who is also my mentor,” said Capaldi. “She keeps me in check!”

Additionally, mentoring does not have to remain strictly in the professional world, she said. Mentoring can, and sometimes should, translate to your personal life. For example, if you are having trouble handling a problem in your personal life, it might be affecting your professional life as well.

After all, as Capaldi’s favorite saying goes, “your attitude affects your altitude.”