“The Last Journey”
#3 “ The Pax-Men”
Today, I am at the mercy
of the “pax-men” here in
When I inquired as to
writing a story about some men under his supervison, I specifically asked to
focus in on at least one young Airman.
He emailed me back and was all for the idea. In his email he mentioned to me that each day
he comes to work he strives to make a difference in at least four or five
people a day who need that extra bit of time.
Asking around a bit I came to find out that all the people I spoke with
agreed that “Riz really loves his job and is very, very good at
it”. In my brief time in dealing
with SMSgt Rizzo, over the course of many emails and then meeting him in
person, I have to concurr with all those that spoke about him. He’s good, and the
SSgt Merril Slepica hails
from Las Vegas,
When asked what it is that makes his job here so meaningful, SSgt. Slepica replied with a serious look, “ Everything I do here is related to the entire big picture. When I send someone down range or a pallet with supplies for the war fighters, or a dependent of one of the war fighters, I become one intently with that portion of the mission and support it with my whole being”. He goes on to say, “I love this country with all I’ve got and to serve everyone is what I’m all about.”
Slepica went on to tell me how the Air Force has given him direction and discipline and that he feels quite blessed to be in the right place at the right time in his life. SSgt. Merrill Slepica is married to his wife Amanda and they have one son, two and half years old.
The next person that
caught my eye is 20-year-old Airman Roberto Gonzales, from
Roberto is extremely well
mannered and smiles as I take him to a quieter place to ask him some questions
about how he decided to join the Air Force at such a young age. He tells me with another grin, “I had
heard that there were good opportunities and that finances for college
education in the future would be available”. Gonzales is the second of three children,
having an older sister above him and a younger brother below him. He comes from a typical tight south
Ramstein Air Base passenger terminal is Gonzales’ first assignment station. He originally came into the Air Force as an open mechanic but someone above him in the Air Force must have noticed his professional people skills which is a dire requirement for handling passengers in an Air Force pax terminal. He tells me he’s a people person and that although he did not choose this field, he’s accelled in it quite well. Gonzales, who is proficient in two languages has had ample opportunity to exercise his Spanish speaking ability with many, many passengers during his time here in Ramstein.
I asked 20-year-old Airman
Roberto Gonzales if he will make a career out of the Air Force. He looked at me once again, smiling and said,
“right now I’m taking it one year at a time”. I mentioned to him if he had ever heard of US
Army four star General Ricardo Sanchez, (retired) who hails from
Gonzales’ neck of the woods in south Texas. He replied he had not. I took a good hard look at this young Airman
and inside I would not be surprised to see him go just as far as General
Sanchez did. Must be something in those
I’ve been waiting here in Ramstein now for what seems like an eternity. All along, I also have been taking note of how things operate here in the pax terminal. All in all, if I have to wait anywhere for a flight into the war zone, being here has turned into a good thing just getting to know briefly those under SMSgt Rizzo’s direction. Passengers coming through the pax terminal at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, can count themselves blessed to be waited upon by the likes of SSGT Merrill Slepica and Airman Roberto Gonzales, both serving their country with a high degree of professionalism while at the same time taking care of restless passengers one at a time all day and night long.
The “Pax-Men” got it under control. They’ll get you on your way. Enjoy the wait, it’s a good place.