SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - For some Airmen, moving can be an arduous process—coordinating with movers, selling a home and sometimes figuring out future living situations on the other side of the planet. Or, they just move down the road, as in the case with the 375th Air Mobility Wing’s new vice commander, Col. Angela Ochoa, who assumed her position here May 26, 2020.
“My change was literally walking across the street,” she said with a chuckle, although she still is experiencing a move since she is required to live on base now.
Previously, she served as the chief of senior leader management in the manpower and personnel section within Air Mobility Command, and she brings her husband, Raul, and daughters, Elsa and Seanna, with her as she begins her time with the 375th.
Ochoa, a Kentucky native, said she has a deep dedication to service, and that within her family, it is a tradition to serve.
“My biggest influences are my family and my faith,” she said. “We had a very tight knit family and that included my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Our family from a very young age, always emphasized service to others. It wasn’t necessarily public service, I had an uncle that was a Jesuit priest. I have many family members who are in healthcare. Our faith is kind of what defined us as a family with an emphasis on service.”
As a child, she said her father’s advice shaped her life when he told her that it wasn’t important what she wanted to do—it was the purpose instead.
“My dad always said, ‘I don’t care what you do growing up as long as you do it in service to others for the glory of God. You can drive a garbage truck. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it and it’s about serving others.’ That was my biggest influence, because that family upbringing and our foundation of faith and focus on service to others is what led me to join the military,” she said.
However, as a young woman ready for college, Ochoa almost didn’t join the military, but changed course in an afternoon.
“Funny thing is I went to the Air Force Academy to visit,” she recalled. “I told my mom, ‘I’ll go to visit, but I’m not going there.’ But I came back and said, ‘Oh, I’m going there.’ I was just amazed, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
She made it to the Academy and met her husband, Raul, a native of Peoria, Arizona, on the first day.
“What started as a friendship just grew from there, and he’s been my best friend almost all my adult life. We both commissioned together, and he served on active duty for almost 10 years. But, due to some medical conditions, he had to leave the service earlier than he wanted,” she said.
Raul had always wanted to go to the Academy, to be an officer and a pilot in the Air Force, and was the first person in his family to graduate and have that capability.
“I’m very proud of him,” she added.
They decided together to deliberately hold off having children until they were a bit older. Now having children, the Ochoas spend every moment they can together.
“Elsa and Seanna are nine and seven. If it’s a hobby for them, it’s a hobby for me,” she said smiling. “They usually get to control the schedule on the weekends. We like to go outside, we are very active, and we like to learn and go do things.”
For her own personal, mental, physical and spiritual wellness, you will find her out on a run.
“I’ve been a runner since I was 11. I really enjoy it, it’s my time to think and escape. Elsa and I have started running together, and we are going to do a virtual 5k this month together.”
During the COVID-19 lockdown, Ochoa said she had time to teach her children self-reliance with meal planning and cooking, along with playing a lot of games.
“Our current family favorite is Monopoly Deal. I think that game is played daily in our house now. Regular Monopoly takes six hours, and with Monopoly Deal, you can play a game in 15 or 20 minutes. That’s where it’s different, that’s why I can have the attention span to play it” she said laughing.
Ochoa said she attributes her success not to “life balance” but “life harmony.”
“I like the phrase work life harmony over work life balance, because there is never a balance. Balance implies an equality, and you just can’t always get there. So, I look at it as there needs to be a harmony. What that means to me is that there are times where my work will demand a lot out of me and put that balance, if you will, completely out of whack.”
Ochoa said when she is deployed, her work life takes priority, but when on home station, she tries to make any event she can a family affair.
“For instance, this past weekend, the kids were in and they helped me decorate the office. We look at this as a family business, and that is part of how we have that harmony. We as a family are here to serve the men and women of the 375th [AMW].”
As a leader, she understands that connection is real for the team as well.
“When each individual is performing at their best the team will perform at their best … It is all about the people, you serve them and they will get it done …. You show up, you live by our Air Force core values. You give your best every day. You will fall short, you will have failures, but that’s OK. We grow through failure. I expect everybody to strive to be better today than they were yesterday.
“I am here for you, and I want to support each and every person in whatever way I can. The last three months have been extremely challenging. We have found ourselves in situations that we could have never imagined. What I would ask, is that we need to take care of ourselves and each other. That includes our families, the people here, and we have to stay connected. My hope is that as we continue to progress forward that it will get easier for us. I know we have been in challenging times, but we can do this … and I’ve got your back.”