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Childhood passion leads to maintainer's Air Force career

Master Sgt. Raphael Romero, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron aircraft maintenance senior air advisor, performs a post-flight inspection on an Augusta Westland AW-139 helicopter engine along with the National Air and Naval Service of Panama flying crew chief at Nicanor Air Base, Panama. Air advisors assess, train, advise and assist U.S. Southern Command lines of effort of strengthening partnerships and countering threats from transnational criminal organizations. (Courtesy Photo)

Master Sgt. Raphael Romero, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron aircraft maintenance senior air advisor, performs a post-flight inspection on an Augusta Westland AW-139 helicopter engine along with the National Air and Naval Service of Panama flying crew chief at Nicanor Air Base, Panama. Air advisors assess, train, advise and assist U.S. Southern Command lines of effort of strengthening partnerships and countering threats from transnational criminal organizations. (Courtesy Photo)

Master Sgt. Raphael Romero, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron aircraft maintenance senior air advisor, inspects the Salvadorian Air Force helicopter boneyard while searching for a trainer model to be used as part of the aircraft maintenance school at Ilopango Air Base, El Salvador. (Courtesy Photo)

Master Sgt. Raphael Romero, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron aircraft maintenance senior air advisor, inspects the Salvadorian Air Force helicopter boneyard while searching for a trainer model to be used as part of the aircraft maintenance school at Ilopango Air Base, El Salvador. (Courtesy Photo)

Master Sgt. Raphael Romero, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron aircraft maintenance senior air advisor, instructs a Belizean Defense Force airman on pre-flight inspection at Ladyville, Belize. The MSAS’s training focused on aiding the BDF-AW to increase their capacity to conduct air mobility and transportation operations to improve humanitarian, disaster relief and regional stability operations. (Courtesy Photo)

Master Sgt. Raphael Romero, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron aircraft maintenance senior air advisor, instructs a Belizean Defense Force airman on pre-flight inspection at Ladyville, Belize. The MSAS’s training focused on aiding the BDF-AW to increase their capacity to conduct air mobility and transportation operations to improve humanitarian, disaster relief and regional stability operations. (Courtesy Photo)

Master Sgt. Raphael Romero, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron aircraft maintenance senior air advisor, discusses the aircraft parking plan with Belizean Airmen at Ladyville, Belize. The training included both classroom instruction and hands on demonstrations utilizing the BDF-AW’s personnel, aircraft, and equipment. (Courtesy Photo)

Master Sgt. Raphael Romero, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron aircraft maintenance senior air advisor, discusses the aircraft parking plan with Belizean Airmen at Ladyville, Belize. The training included both classroom instruction and hands on demonstrations utilizing the BDF-AW’s personnel, aircraft, and equipment. (Courtesy Photo)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – “I like seeing the intricacies and how everything works inside an airplane … others just see the airplane flying, but what they don’t see is everything that is going on inside of it or the effort that goes into it.”

Master Sgt. Raphael Romero, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, fell in love with aviation when he was a little boy flying airplanes with his father, Rafael, and watching his favorite cartoon called “Robotech”.

Being born in Arizona but raised in Mexico for 19 years, Romero started looking at the choices he had available to pursue his military aviation dream. As he considered his options, and with the advice and support of his mother, Olivia Moreno, he decided to join the U.S. Air Force.

“I was in the Delayed-Entry Program during the 9/11 terrorist attacks when my recruiter called, (and) I immediately told him, ‘Sign me up; I’m still coming in!’” he said. “I just kept on going and ended up deploying a year after I got to my first base.”

According to Romero, joining as an aircraft maintainer opened up a new world for him and was perhaps the best choice he could have made.

“I signed up for the experience and the knowledge,” he said. “There have been many times that I’ve sent airplanes into combat and have people like special forces or troops in contact come and say to me, ‘Hey, who was in charge of this airplane? Because thanks to you we are alive right now.’”

Romero is also very proud of the Airmen he has served alongside during his 17-year career and says they are one of the highlights of his career.

“Maintenance is not an easy job; we are out there in the sun, snow or rain,” he said. “Being able to mentor young Airmen, making them feel valuable, and telling them that without them the mission doesn’t happen, that has been the greatest thing.”

At his current unit with the 571st MSAS, Romero serves as the aircraft maintenance senior air advisor. The 571st MSAS is a language enabled squadron that assesses, advises, trains and assists Latin American and Caribbean countries to enhance their airpower capabilities as part of the U.S. Air Force’s enduring building partner capacity mission.

“As an air advisor you go through great lengths to try to build those partnerships,” Romero said. “Relationships will flourish if we just continue to understand and have empathy for one another.”

Maj. Rodolfo Orozco, 571st MSAS director of operations, spoke highly of Romero and said that he has always been a valued member of the squadron.

“Through my experience working alongside him, I’ve witnessed firsthand his natural ability to connect with our international partners and fortify enduring relationships in the Southern Command area of responsibility,” Orozco said. “As a result, his students highly respect his position and expertise as an aircraft mechanic and a U.S. Air Force Airman.”

Orozco also said, Romero’s positive can-do attitude radiates throughout the squadron and sets the tone for all to follow. In fact, Romero is often by-name requested to provide specialized training to partner nation air forces by Air Forces Southern and the U.S. embassy security cooperation offices.

“Whether it is language and culture training, technical training, or mentorship and developmental skills, he is passionate about his job, our Air Force, and the strategic impact our mission has on the National Defense Strategy,” Orozco said. “We are very lucky to have him.”

Some of Romero’s most memorable trips have been to Panama, Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

“I love diving into other cultures!” he said. “People are so warm and their candor is just incredible. They are proud and they want to show you their capabilities, as well as their hometowns and the pride they have for their respective countries.”

Romero went on to say, the one thing he learned when he was a young Airman was some advice given to him by his former flight-chief, Master Sgt. Mike McGuire.

“Follow your heart, that’s the secret to success. And now that I fully understand it, I tell my troops the same thing--follow your heart and you will never go wrong,” he said. “Enjoy the ride, because being in the Air Force is an experience of a lifetime.”