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Recruits find family and fraternity in the Air National Guard

Yahaira Perez

Yahaira Perez already at work in the 185th Air Refueling Wing supply warehouse on December 2, 2020. Perez recently enlisted in the Sioux City, Iowa Air Guard unit and is allowed to attend unit training prior to attending basic training. U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot

Yahaira Perez

Yahaira Perez is already at work in the 185th Air Refueling Wing supply warehouse on December 2, 2020. Perez recently enlisted in the Sioux City, Iowa Air Guard unit and is allowed to attend unit training with pay prior to attending basic training. U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot

Yahaira Perez

Yahaira Perez is already at work in the 185th Air Refueling Wing supply warehouse on December 2, 2020. Perez recently enlisted in the Sioux City, Iowa Air Guard unit and is allowed to attend unit training pay prior to attending basic training. U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot

Adam Fillipi enlists

Adam Fillipi is one of 90 Airman who have enlisted in the Iowa Air National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing in 2020. Fillipi enlisted into the unit’s Security Forces Squadron. U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot

Adam Fillipi

Adam Fillipi talks with 185th Air Refueling Wing recruiter, Staff Sgt. Hunter East in the recruiting office at the Sioux City, Iowa based Air Guard unit on November 8, 2020.

Adam Fillipi

Adam Fillipi talks with 185th Air Refueling Wing recruiter, Staff Sgt. Hunter East in the recruiting office at the Sioux City, Iowa based Air Guard unit on November 8, 2020.

Master Sgt. Jerry Anderson

Master Sgt. Jerry Anderson, a recruiter in Sioux City, Iowa is in his office at the Iowa Air National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing on October 21, 2020. U.S. Air National Guard photo Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot 185th ARW/PA

LEAD: Two new recruits in the Iowa Air National Guard have very different backgrounds, but since enlisting, both found something in common. Vince De Groot has more from Sioux City, Iowa. Script: Yahaira Perez knew she wanted to join the Air National Guard ever since her recruiter, Master Sgt. Jerry Anderson visited her class at Bishop Heelan High School in Sioux City, Iowa a few years ago. Her enlistment was delayed, but she said joining the Air Guard was on the top of her to-do list once she became a U.S. residence. “He was always in the back of my mind because I wanted to do that but I couldn’t because of the status. But in 2019 we came in as residents and me and my brother went in,” Adam Fillipi also recently joined the Iowa Air Guard. He is finishing his last year of High School and plans to attend basic military training after graduation in the spring. He says he knows the initial military training will cause a short delay in his college start, but says the many benefits are worth the wait while he gets to complete high school. Lower Thirds: Airman Adam Fillipi “It’s just nice because I get to be a kid and enjoy the things I like to do like football and track, those are my passions” Although both are new to the military they already have unique sense of service and understanding of the investments and rewards that come with military membership. Perez Prieto: “My parents came to the U.S. 17 years ago, I was born in Mexico but I wanted to serve the country that raised me,” Fillipi “It is a big family tradition, but I’ve always been interested in serving just because we live in a great country and I’ve always wanted to give back” After completing basic military training and tech school Perez says she will begin working as a supply technician, Filipi plans to work in the Security forces squadron at the Sioux City based Air Guard unit. Even though they just enlisted both are forward thinking, saying they plan to stay in the guard, in fact they both say they already have higher aspirations once they finish college. Fillipi says he is interested in applying to become a pilot and Perez says she is interested in becoming a JAG officer. “I would want to retire with all the benefits and all that, and also to set an example for myself and hopefully start a family legacy like he has with like my nephews and stuff.” In Sioux City, Iowa I’m Senior Master Sgt, Vincent De Groot Lower thirds: 00:00:00 - 00:10:00 Sioux City Iowa 00:27:00 - 00:39:00 Yahaira Perez 185th ARW 00:54:00 - 01:02:00 Adam Fillipi 185th ARW 02:31:00- 02:40:00 Vincent De Groot reporting

Sioux City, Iowa --

On the surface Yahaira Perez and Adam Fillipi seem to have little in common. Recently however, they found fraternity when they joined the Iowa Air National Guard.

Perez grew up in Sioux City, Iowa but only recently became a U.S. resident. In fact her desire to enlist in the Iowa Air Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing after graduating from Bishop Heelan High School, was delayed for a time while she waited to become a permanent U.S. resident. According to Perez, after her family become residents, both her and her brother Hector joined the Sioux City Iowa based Air Guard unit. 

“My parents came to the U.S. 17 years ago,” Perez explained, “I was born in Mexico but I wanted to serve the country that raised me and my family,” she added when talking about her motivation to join the Iowa Air Guard.

Perez is already in her third year at the Iowa State University where she is studying mathematics and pre-law, all on her parent’s dime. She explained that she wanted to get stated with college despite the fact that her delayed enlistment meant she would not receive college tuition assistance through the Guard. Undergraduate students in Iowa can typically receive full tuition when they join the National Guard.

Because of her interest in law, Perez said she initially wanted to join the Judge Advocate Generals Corp, or JAG office. However, because of her legal status at the time of enlistment she was not allowed to go that route, and opted instead to enlist as a supply specialist.

“At this point it’s just God’s plan,” said Perez, commenting about her delayed enlistment and missing out on tuition assistance. “It has shown me the value of money,” she added; clearly aware of her parent’s hard work that is allowing her to attend college.

In contrast Adam Fillipi grew up in the small town of Anthon, Iowa 45 minutes east of Sioux City. Fillipi comes from a tradition of military service, which is not uncommon in units of the National Guard.

Fillipi’s family legacy includes both of his parents who are long time unit members. In fact his mom is the 185th ARW Vice Wing Commander. Fillipi stated that he also has an uncle in the refueling wing and he is the last of three siblings to join.

Fillipi is finishing his senior year at Lawton Bronson high school where the timing of his enlistment will allow him to take advantage of the Iowa Guard’s tuition assistance program. He joined the unit’s security forces squadron, which made him eligible to receive an additional $15,000 enlistment bonus. The timing of his enlistment will also allow him to receive a monthly stipend through the GI bill while he attends college.

“I want to go to Morningside, (College) so that would definitely help with that, since that’s a private school,” Fillipi remarked.

185th Air Refueling Wing Recruiter, Master Sgt. Jerry Anderson said Perez and Fillipi were part of a group of over 90 enlistees to join the Sioux City, Iowa based Air Guard in 2020.

Anderson pronounced that despite the setbacks of COVID, his office was able to meet their recruiting goals for the year. Anderson explained that other things, like being located in a small city, also present unique recruiting challenges but that the family connections help significantly with recruiting.

“We get a lot (recruits) through the schools but we also get a lot of unit referrals, which speaks volumes because of how much people like this place,” Anderson said, whose son who is also a 185th unit member working in communications. “I think that is one of our advantages, how well family oriented this base is,” Anderson added.

Fillipi echoed Anderson’s comments when he said a major factor in joining the Air Guard was because of the involvement of his family in military service.

“It is a big family tradition, but I’ve always been interested in serving just because we live in a great country and I’ve always wanted to give back,” Fillipi commented.

While the financial benefits of joining the Air Guard are a significant selling point, Anderson says there are a variety of reasons why people join the Guard.

“I have had individuals tell me they don’t care about the bonus, they just want to do something where they can travel,” Anderson remarked.

Other reasons people are motivated to enlist, according to Anderson are opportunities to learn a trade or earn a commercial certificate in areas like cyber security. Anderson explained that there are many trades available through Air Guard membership which can allow enlistees to seek high demand civilian employment because of the training they receive in the military.

The 185th ARW is equipped with the KC-135 mid-air refueling aircraft which has been in the Air Force since the late 1950’s. With regular updates however, the aircraft and dozens of jobs surrounding its operations and maintenance have evolved through the years. Anderson asserted that the amount of technology involved in the daily operations has also created a higher demand for tech savvy recruits.

“Everything in the aircraft is going digital,” Anderson explained when speaking specifically about trades like avionics. “Those individuals who are getting out of high school and going into these career fields already have a leg up,” Anderson added.

Perez and Fillipi both hope to attend basic military training followed by their respective Air Force Technical Schools in the coming year. After college, Fillipi hopes to pursue an aircraft pilot position in the 185th Air Refueling Wing. Perez said she is interested in attending Drake University Law School in Des Moines, then possibly continuing her National Guard career as a JAG officer. Perez added that she has been so impressed with her experience so far that she hopes she and her brother are the start of their own family legacy of service with the Air National Guard.