Son Follows Father's Space Force Footsteps
by U.S. Space Force 1st Lt. Charles Rivezzo
May 7, 2023
As Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Chua placed
his personal U.S. Space Force patch on his son's uniform, it was a
moment of pride and humility for them both. Chua, a seasoned Airman
and now Guardian, was witnessing his son follow in his footsteps.
was a moment of deep significance as the torch of service and
sacrifice was passed down from one generation to the next.
This touching scene played out on April 25 as the father and son duo
gathered on stage for the Guardian Recognition and Patching Ceremony
at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, prior to Spc. 3 Anthony “AJ”
Chua's graduation from U.S. Space Force basic military training.
The moment itself was symbolic and
historic in its own right. It represented a distinct chapter in the
U.S. Space Force’s story.
But this is more than a U.S. Space
Force story. This is a story about a father and son, their love for
country, and call to service.
Born and raised in a small
province in the Philippines, Chua said he comes from “humble
beginnings.” As a child, he never thought he would get the
opportunity to live in the United States, let alone become a U.S.
citizen. He was "content and happy" living in his home country,
where he thought he would take over his father’s job someday and
grow old with a family of his own.
However, as Chua grew up,
he found inspiration in the movie "Top Gun" and became passionate
about airplanes, even aspiring to become a pilot.
doesn't want to be Tom Cruise?" Chua laughed.
When Chua moved
to the United States, he thought about joining the military to
fulfill his dream. But as a Filipino tradition, Chua had to ask
permission and approval from his parents, and his father was not
initially supportive of the idea.
“He had a traditional view
of the military,” Chua said, “he associated it with being on the
front lines and fighting with rifles.”
resistance from his father, Chua knew that there were many different
specialties in the military.
On June 10, 2003, Chua said he
“partially achieved his dream” by joining the enlisted Airman ranks
as an avionics specialist for C-130 gunships. Although it was not
his dream of being a pilot, he said it was as close as he could get
to being around airplanes.
After five years as an avionics
specialist, Chua said he was thinking of ways to advance his career
and met some friends who "flew satellites," which piqued his
interest in space.
In 2008, he cross-trained to become a
After gaining experience as a space operator,
Chua said he was selected to become a "space aggressor" with the
527th Space Aggressor Squadron.
"It was a completely
different mindset," he said, likening the aggressors' mission to the
space version of Top Gun.
"As an aggressor, I was able to
grow professionally and gain a better understanding of how space
connected to the rest of the Department of Defense," he said.
Approaching his 10-year mark of service and looking to pursue
alternative career options, Chua volunteered to become a Military
Training Instructor (MTI).
In 2014, he earned his MTI
campaign hat, embarking on a new journey, which he described as "one
of his proudest moments."
For three years, Chua threw himself
into his role as an MTI - putting in the long days and countless
hours necessary to turn basic trainees into Airmen.
during this time that AJ really experienced his father's world and
was exposed to the high expectations and standards that come with
being a military servicemember.
"He [AJ] basically lived the
BMT life as well and got to see dad in action," Chua said with a
Chua would eventually return to his space operator
career field after his assignment as an MTI.
2020, Chua transferred into the newly established U.S. Space Force,
trading in his spice-brown name tapes for space blue.
easy for me to transfer based on what I already did day in and day
out," he said. "But it was difficult to make a final decision as I
still had my pride with the Air Force since I first enlisted. I just
had to swallow my pride and accept the significance of what I can
contribute to the new service branch."
Little did he know his
contribution to his new service would be foundational and
fundamentally change the way in which the U.S. Space Force would
"build and train" its Guardians.
A year into his new journey
within the U.S. Space Force, Chua received a phone call that
presented him with a unique opportunity to help stand up the
service's own BMT detachment. Although hesitant at first, he decided
to take on the challenge, knowing it would take a lot of effort to
get a first-of-its-kind unit up and running.
Over the next
eight months, he, alongside a team of others, worked tirelessly to
plan and execute the standing up of the detachment.
couldn't pass up this opportunity," he said. "And in the end, it was
all worth it to see the BMT detachment finally come to life and help
shape the future of the Space Force."
Chua currently serves
as the senior enlisted leader of the 1st Delta Operations Squadron,
The Next Generation
Like most children born into military families, AJ watched his
father don his neatly pressed uniform many times over the course of
the past 20 years, instilling a sense of pride and a calling to
service for as long as he can remember.
Growing up, he loved
space, computers, and technology.
“I’ve always been very fond
of the topic of space,” he said. “As a child, I was obsessed with
‘Star Wars,’ and at night, I’d fall asleep under a solar system
projected above my bed.”
AJ said that for most of his
childhood, he never imagined the Space Force would be “a real
thing.” But for so many years, his exposure to the military,
“satellites,” and “space operations” crystallized his vision to one
day serve in the military.
“With my dad as an MTI, I saw how
sharp he was and how the rest of the MTIs were very sharp,” he said.
“The military has always taken care of us, and I just decided that I
had to give back.”
Embarking on his own journey, AJ enrolled
at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he was pursuing a
computer science degree and seeking a commission via the
university’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
ultimately, AJ wanted to speed up the process. He was “ready to
serve” no matter if it was an officer or enlisted member. He said he
just “wanted to make a difference.”
AJ eventually withdrew
from UTSA and enlisted in the U.S. Space Force as a cyber operations
Passing The Torch
the first day AJ set foot at BMT as a trainee, he said he felt like
"it was fate" as he was assigned to the 326th Training Squadron –
the same squadron his father pushed flights through years ago as an
Air Force MTI.
"The advice I gave my son after dropping him
off at the hotel during BMT ship out night was, 'AJ, do not put
pressure on yourself by trying to be me or anything to do with me,
but simply be you,'" Chua said.
For the next seven and a half
weeks, AJ was a trainee, forging his own path.
two months of training, the day finally arrived for Chua to pass the
torch of service to his son. The culminating moment was when Chua
placed his own U.S. Space Force patch on AJ's shoulder. The "patch"
wasn't new or fresh out of the box. It was slightly weathered,
having been worn by Chua in austere U.S. Space Force locations, such
as his time spent in Greenland.
"At the patching ceremony, I
told AJ that this patch has been worn in the most austere
environment in the U.S. Space Force," Chua said. "I told him this
signifies the connection between us as Guardians and as a family."
As a father, Chua said he remembers looking AJ in the eyes and
taking in the moment that lay before him.
"This moment meant
so much more than just the physical act of patching him into the
Space Force," Chua said. "I'm leaving him my legacy. There are not
enough words to describe the feeling of knowing that your very own
family DNA will also become a part of your family in the service."
As AJ sets out on his own U.S. Space Force journey, he said he's
excited for what lies ahead.
"I'm hopeful the differences I
can and will make will better the Space Force," AJ said. "I am
coming into the Space Force with a positive attitude and a work
ethic that will rival my father's. From there, there's no way a
difference won't be made."
As the U.S. Space Force continues
to grow and evolve, stories like that of the Chua family will
undoubtedly become more common.
Reflecting on the
significance of their story, Chua surmised his thoughts into six
impactful words: "This is a story of success."
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