When Carlos Puga graduated from high school, he started working a series of part-time jobs. He knew that he wanted to go to school and get involved with his local community, but he wasn’t sure where to start.
“All I knew was that I wanted to do something that would make an impact in my life and set me up for success.”
Carlos’ family had a few ideas, and his father suggested that he join the National Guard so he could serve close to home. Carlos did some research online and discovered that the Air National Guard had an installation near his hometown of Camarillo, Calif.
After learning the Air National Guard was even closer to home, Carlos thought that Service branch might be a better fit, so he consulted his older brother, who was an airborne paratrooper in the Army. His brother agreed that Carlos should explore the Air National Guard since he wanted to live near his family. Like the Army National Guard, members of the Air National Guard can be deployed overseas, but they can train close to home until they are needed.
“One of the biggest benefits of the Air Guard that really drew me in was the ability to choose what base I would work through. I can still serve in the Military near home, and then after work is done, I can be with my parents and hang out with my friends.”
Carlos attended Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. When he was finished, he trained to become an air transportation specialist, which is his current position with the California Air National Guard.
“One of the most common roles [of an air transportation specialist] is loading the aircraft with cargo. As far as passengers go, we make sure that they are checked in and sure that they have the proper documentation, to make sure that they are eligible to fly.”
Besides loading the plane and checking in passengers, Carlos has many other crucial responsibilities. He must make sure that all cargo is packed properly and meets weight restrictions.
“Everything has to be weighed to ensure that the aircraft has a center of balance. For instance, if it’s too heavy in the back, the plane could start to tilt back, and it would create a hazard for flying. So it’s really to ensure flying safety.”
One of Carlos’ other responsibilities is maintaining the parachutes that are used in cargo drops. He must gather the parachute, clean it and repack it so it can be used again.
“The different steps to packing a parachute involve untangling lines, folding them a certain way, so that when it starts to deploy from the aircraft, it breaks in a nice, clean fashion.”
When he isn’t drilling with the Air National Guard, Carlos is a political science major at Ventura College. He hopes to use his GI Bill benefits to attend law school and get involved in local politics. Carlos has found a good balance between his military career and his civilian dreams, and he plans to be a part of the Air National Guard throughout his career.
“The Air Guard has strengthened my leadership abilities. Even in the training, I was placed in a leadership role, and it really helped to cultivate the sense of taking the initiative.”