History, dreams and the pages that inspire greatness

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ruben Rios
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing
While Reserve Citizen Airmen are fully trained and qualified to do their respective jobs effectively in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, many members have ambitions and passions that supplement their love for serving their country.

For six members in the 88th Aerial Port Squadron, 514th Air Mobility Wing that passion translates to writing.

For Master Sgt. Lorraine Cuff, 88th APS unit education training manager and air reserve technician, deciding to write was a natural result from attending seminars with McGuire Achievers Toastmasters Club 3111, a local chapter of Toastmasters International, which aims to improve the communication and leadership skills of its members.

“I made a connection through Toastmasters and I realized people who are very passionate about their story are able to capture people's attention,” said Cuff. “Several speeches I’ve done with Toastmasters have a common theme about people being their greatest self. I worked with someone to compile that information and actually put it into a book.”

Alternatively, Chief Master Sgt. Lawayne Williams, 88th APS chief enlisted manager and superintendent of operations, found himself working on his novels while deployed. He compared the process to enjoying a Snickers candy bar.

“Oddly, I’ve been deployed or was activated each time I finished writing a novel,” said Williams. “As a leader in the area of responsibility, it’s critical to find something to keep your mind sharp, occupied and balanced so you can lead your Airmen through the stressors that are associated with deployments. Writing was my Snickers bar.”

Master Sgt. David Strobel, former 88th APS Passenger Service Terminal superintendent and air transportation specialist, however, used the investigative abilities he developed as a U.S. Air Force historian to research the history of his own family, which inspired his book.

“With skills I've honed as an Air Force historian, I reached out to relatives I've never even heard of before,” said Strobel. “As an Air Force historian, I felt the responsibility to capture the story I soon discovered about my great-great grandmother.”

These authors have different reasons for writing and publishing their books, but a common goal between all of them is the desire to help future generations of Airmen.

Master Sgt. DeRosa, an 88th APS air transportation specialist, wrote his book with the purpose of preparing prospective Air Force members for the physical expectations of basic military training and military life.

“At the time, I had recently earned my personal trainer certification and I wanted to demonstrate my knowledge and expertise in the field of health and fitness,” said DeRosa. “It was also shortly after I had entered the military and saw a pressing need to help prepare future military members for the rigors of basic training. So that was a natural theme for the book and my target audience.”

While his e-book is a fiction novel, Senior Airman Altiery, an 88th APS air transportation specialist, plans to write a financial guidebook for military personal that will also include information on available financial resources and services in the future.

“One book I’m going to write is essentially a financial guidebook, specifically for military personnel,” said Altiery. “I would like explain how to use financial service companies such as United Services Automobile Association and Navy Federal Credit Union or delve into the different types of retirement options available. I’ve talked to some Airmen about putting money into their Thrift Savings Plan and when I ask why they haven’t, their response is ‘I don’t know what that is.’”

Like DeRosa and Altiery, Chief Master Sgt. Sebrina Flaggbriggs, 88th APS air transportation manager and air reserve technician, desires to help future generations of Airmen with her pledge to give away 10,000 copies of her book to those in need, particularly first-term Airmen.

“For this project, my goal is to gift 10,000 copies to others who are needing to improve their lives,” said FlaggBriggs. “My plan is to continue to find a way to get My Vision Board Book into the hands of every first-term Airman, every dreamer, every person in school from pre-school to college, and to get a book into neighborhoods where children and parents are struggling. As well as neighborhoods where everything is good but people are looking to grow.”

These authors from the 88th APS agree that any Reserve Citizen Airmen has the ability to reach for their goals and accomplish those goals through passion, drive and determination.

“Passion is the fuel that drives you to get things done,” said Cuff. “Each and every one of us can overcome adversity. We can be one person today and tomorrow be our greatest self.”

Though faced with adversity themselves, whether it was doubt from family members, peers, or their own self, the authors did not falter in achieving their respective goals. This is a lesson they want to pass on to new Airmen.

“I had to stop telling people what I was doing because I would get negative feedback,” said Strobel. “Even some of my family said, ‘You can’t write a book.’ It made me determined to get this thing done and I’m even more determined now.”

FlaggBriggs believes members have the ability to achieve their goals. She hopes members can use her book to map out that process.

“I would like for individuals to be able to write down their ideas, visions and dreams, and then achieve those goals,” said FlaggBriggs.

While passion, drive and determination were essential to their success, all of the authors agreed there was one other common key element they shared.

“Coffee really helped,” said Altiery. “I would say coffee in addition to passion.”

The authors believe it is not an accident that so many members from the 88th APS find success both within and outside of their Air Force careers. They all agreed that their success and the success of their squadron can be attributed to Lt. Col. Natalie C. Paull, 88th APS commander, as well as the 88th APS enlisted leaders.

“When you have a very effective commander, you need the unit to respond,” said Strobel. “We have a lot of motivated people in the squadron, and when the commander tapped into that, we responded.”

FlaggBriggs added that the enlisted force plays a strong role in the success of the 88th APS.

“I think we have great enlisted leaders as well,” said FlaggBriggs. “When you have a great enlisted force and they’re getting the work done, well, that’s what it’s all about.”

These members hope that the stories of their hard work and success will motivate other Airmen in the 514th AMW to share their own stories.

“Because of the willingness of us to share the work that we’ve done, it’s helped to motivate and encourage other members to share their stories,” said Cuff. “It’s possible there may be other squadrons that have the same jewels, but no one has actually presented themselves. It’s not about making ourselves shine, it’s about giving other members the motivation to come out and share their own stories.”

The 88th APS has won “Squadron of the Year,” in 2016 and 2017, as well as multiple Squadron of the Quarter awards from 2016-2018.