by Master Sgt. Mike Smith
Air National Guard Training and Education Center
December 24, 2018
An Airman assigned in cyber operations at the Air National Guard’s education center said that dressing up as a comic character parody for charitable events is a valuable and rewarding way to reach out to the community where he’s assigned.
“Cause-play [dressing in costume for a cause] has been my interest and brings so much joy to others,” Master Sgt. Robert A. Pickler said.
Sergeant Pickler is a Cyber Operations manager at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center in East Tennessee. He has dressed up as the character “Deadpool” for three years. He’s delivered school supplies, supported charity events, attended comic conventions, and visited hospitals.
Sergeant Pickler first dressed up in the costume as a fun way of volunteering for traffic safety during his daughter’s last day of school. As an avid comic fan, he gave careful thought as to what character felt comfortable.
“Wearing a costume does not embarrass me in the least; however, donning a super-hero or -villain costume seems sacrilegious if I can’t do justice to the character or outfit,” Sergeant Pickler said.
Those who saw him encouraged him to do more. “Once I did it, I was hooked,” Sergeant Pickler said.
“He is a good example when it comes to community relations and esprit de corps, he hits that home,” said Senior Master Sgt. Steve Monks, Cyber Operations superintendent. “He’s put in almost 300 hours volunteering over the last few years. It’s his passion -- he’s equally passionate about his service.”
At work, the Cyber Operations team manages the latest and greatest software, computers, and network systems approved by the Air Force, which includes TEC’s three cyber cafes as well as one of the few unit commercial wireless systems with student access in all buildings.
Sometimes several times in a month, Sergeant Pickler puts his costume on and drives to off-duty events. “It includes anything from sick kids to cancer walks/runs, to awareness campaigns,” he said. “It could be anywhere from a couple of hours, to a day, or a couple of days. But there’s a wealth of opportunity out there.”
His family sometimes goes with him. He’s uncovered a greater need for the happiness he brings to others through silly playmaking. He was also surprised to reveal some secret identities of other costumed service members, some working incognito at his duty station. It all inspired him.
“Each person has their purpose for it, and for me the smiles are mine,” Sergeant Pickler said.