November 2010: Portrait of a Professional

MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- Portrait of a Professional is a monthly profile of an outstanding Staff Sergeant or below. Senior Airman Jeffrey MacNeill, 130th Rescue Squadron radio operator, is featured in this month's Portrait of a Professional.

What is your favorite memory in the Air Force?
The day I did my first search and rescue. It was an Easter weekend and we had to fly about 700 miles off the coast to make the rescue. While it made for a long day, it was an incredibly rewarding experience. It was on that flight that I saw all of my training and personal sacrifices culminate in the saving of a man's life. There are few things more gratifying than having the opportunity to step up and do your part in a rescue.

What motivated you to enlist in the Air Force?
For me, it came down to having the opportunity to do something beyond what I was able to do as a civilian. I love flying and I love the United States. The Air Force gave me a way to combine the two. When I visited Moffett and saw the mission and the opportunities that came with it, I was hooked on the idea of flying with the C-130.

How has being an Airman changed your outlook on life?
When I joined the Air Force my outlook on life was rooted in my faith and my family. Being an Airman has added invaluable life experiences to who I am and helped to shape those two pillars. Life in the Air force has stretched and strengthened my faith and made the time I get to spend with my family more valuable to me.

What's the most important lesson you've learned in the military?
The most important lesson that I have learned, and that I see played out on a regular basis, is the importance of readiness. The ever-changing world we live in today lends itself to those people and groups who do not have to react to situations, but to those who have a plan and are ready to carry it out. Nowhere is this more true or crucial than in our national defense. As individuals in the military develop their skill sets, take pride in their work and exercise discipline in personal areas of life, that member's section, squadron or wing only becomes more capable to meet the next day's challenges. Having been around teams my entire life, both for sports and in church, it is not hard to see how one weak link can diminish an entire team's effectiveness. The same holds true when it comes to getting the mission done in the military. In maintaining our military's readiness, President Reagan said it best, "Keep your wits sharp, your mind focused, your heart open and your guns loaded."

If you could deploy anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I could not pick just one place. Being an aircrew member in the 130th RQS allows for frequent travel. I enjoy the tempo and variety of places that we do the mission. Each new place that I travel throughout the world, both with the military and as a civilian, broadens my perspectives and challenges my thinking. I never realized how living in my hometown before I got a chance to travel was like playing cards with half the deck. There is just too much out there to see and experience. I look forward to seeing those things I may not even know exist right now.

If you could choose any AF job, which would it be? Why?
I would choose to be a pilot. As far as why, I would have to ask why someone wouldn't want to be a pilot. For now, I am taking advantage of the job I have as an enlisted aviator and learning as much as I can so that one day if that door opens, I will be ready to walk through it.

Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Fresno, California.

What are your hobbies?
Competition, in its many forms. I played sports through high school and always enjoy a good pick-up game. Some of my favorite sports are volleyball, water polo, ping pong and golf.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
Working with the homeless is a passion of mine. Through some of this work, a dear friend of mine, Jesse, and I began a conversation about a discontent we had both developed in working with the homeless. Something felt wrong passing out blankets on a cold night knowing that we had warm houses to go back to. And passing out sandwiches to a mother and her kids when we knew our refrigerators were stocked left us wanting more. It is not that we felt bad for having these things, but we knew that there was a disconnect, an "us" and "them" mentality, as we talked to the homeless. As far as we could see, the only way to break down this barrier was to meet them where they were at. So, at the age of 18 we decided to ride our bikes into downtown Fresno and live with the homeless. For a week we ate what they ate, slept where they slept and prayed like they prayed. In seven days, my world had been turned upside-down. My thought process about the homeless was changed as faces and stories replaced stereotypes and assumptions. This past year Jesse passed away, however, his life challenges me and everyone who knew him to live a more selfless life.