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Airman Spotlight: Staff Sgt. Andrew Rivera

SSgt Rivera at airshow

Members of the community attend the Sound of Speed Airshow at Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, Missouri, May 2, 2021. The air show was hosted by the 139th Airlift Wing, and city of St. Joseph to thank the community for their support. The air show committee estimated around 30,000 people attended during the weekend performances in which the United States Air Force Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron were featured. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Patrick Evenson)

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. --

Staff Sgt. Andrew Rivera joined the 139th Airlift Wing in 2011 as an airfield systems specialist with the 241st Air Traffic Control Squadron. In this role, he worked with mobile air traffic control towers that enable air traffic control capabilities outside of established airstrip locations.

“I knew I wanted to join the military, but didn’t know what jobs to expect,” Rivera said. “The doors opened after taking the ASVAB, so I looked for positions that offered bonuses in addition to education, experience and benefits the military offers.”

While serving with the 241st, Rivera decided to record a video about his family on his phone of the base’s family day in 2017, unaware that this would change the trajectory of his military and civilian careers.

“I thought it would be fun to make a full video of the event,” Rivera said, “So, I added in footage of other families and the speeches from wing and vice wing commanders.”

Rivera posted the video to his own social media site and tagged the 139th, gaining attention from the public affairs team. Already knowing that he wanted to retire from the military in the future, he chose to switch career fields and re-enlist in public affairs.

“I joined because of the job, the mission and the people,” Rivera said. “I continue to serve because of the same reasons. I love getting to go out and use my skills to benefit something bigger than myself. It puts into prospective that we can come together to accomplish what needs to be done.”

Rivera’s civilian career also changed as a result of his new military job. After completing photojournalist training, he spent a year honing his skills on temporary technician duty to backfill for others in the office who were deployed. He then decided to start his own business as a freelance photographer and director.

“The video I made from family day years ago turned out to be quite a pivotal moment in my professional and personal life,” Rivera said. “Now, I get to travel all over the country doing what I love for both the military and my full-time job.”

Several people from Rivera’s family also have connections to the military: His father retired from the Army after 21 years in the infantry, and continues to work with JROTC units in the Kansas City area; three of his brothers have served, one in each the 139th Airlift Wing, Air Force active duty forces, and with the Air Force Academy; his wife, Staff Sgt. Elaina Rivera, joined the 139th Medical Group in 2014; and his grandfather served in the Navy.

“To anyone who is ever on the fence and asking themselves if they can serve and still do what they love: Give it a try,” Rivera said. “You never know what you could learn and what you can contribute.”