A Hidden White Hat, Hero
by U.S. Air Force Darrius Parker, Materiel Command
October 19, 2019
The Air Force has a history of revealing a hero within people. Some are remembered while others are soon forgotten. It is not the memory of those heroes that matter most; it is the actions those heroes take and the people they influence that matters.
The term “white hat” describes a person who goes beyond to care for others ahead of themselves and make a positive difference in the world around them. In other words, “white hats” are heroes.
Rey Febo’s actions in his life have affected many people for the better. The Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) has great people, but Febo is one of AFMC’s hidden white hats.
August 13, 2019 - Rey Febo, a recognized “white hat” hero, is a systems engineer at Air Force Materiel Command. AFMC has given him the ability to grow professionally and personally in the past 10 years of service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Darrius Parker, Materiel Command)
People come from all over to join the Air Force family, regardless of background or personal history. Febo epitomizes what it means to be an Airman.
Born and raised in the mountains of Comerio, Puerto Rico surrounded by coffee and tobacco farms, Febo turned to the military as a way to obtain better opportunities for his future.
He enlisted in the Marines Corps., serving 10 years in logistics and later as an embarkation specialist and unit chief. Eager to learn as much as possible about his duties and how they affected the larger mission picture, Febo sought out additional opportunities to train in ways to help him assist others. He specialized in airborne operations and deliveries, marksmanship, close combat, combat water survival, jungle survival and land navigation while functioning as a nuclear, biological, and chemical training supervisor and armory chief prior to separating after 10 years of active duty service.
Following his retirement, Febo returned to school to study engineering, an area that peaked his interest as a Marine when he would perform precise calculations on cargo loads. He obtained both his bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico. While studying, he participated in an internship at the Air Force Research Laboratory that would change his future.
Through the Minority Leaders Research Collaboration Program (ML RCP), Febo began a career as a researcher. The AFRL established the ML RCP to bring together talented young students such as Febo from across the United States to network and collaborate with government scientists and engineers. It is a great opportunity for bright young students to shine.
“They were funding some cool research at my university in an area I knew nothing about. After a summer internship, I decided to change my graduate studies to the critical technological area and become a full time employee as a researcher upon graduation,” he said.
Febo developed a prototype during his research activities that eventually flew on an unmanned aerial vehicle. This experience wet his appetite for finding new ways that he could leverage his knowledge and skills for the Air Force mission.
Febo has now served 11 years in AFMC in a wide variety of positions. He is currently a systems engineer at the Systems Engineering Division and Technical Management Directorate, a position he says enables him to use the expertise he has accumulated over his career to execute the mission while bringing a fresh perspective to counteract “this is how we’ve always done it” mentalities.
“This opportunity has helped me to gain a worldwide perspective on how our capabilities and readiness affect our National Security postures and internal resource allocation,” he said.
According to Febo, the work-life balance offered by civilian service has also given him the opportunity to give back to the community.
Febo has always felt a need to give back to his community, both on a professional and personal level. He has participated in a number of recruiting events on behalf of AFMC to attract new young and creative minds, so that others may benefit from the same opportunities he has benefitted from throughout his career.
Along with his partner Darybel, he co-founded the 18th Parallel Relief, a non-profit organization formed with the goal to assist Puerto Rico after the 2017 hurricane. Since that time, his organization has expanded in scope to help communities following natural disasters such as hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and the most recent tornadoes in Ohio.
“We started to raise awareness, and working with bigger cities such as Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton, we’ve raised close to one million pounds of goods. We worked with other non-profit organizations to help with the deliveries to Puerto Rico. Then we went there for three weeks to help deliver to the mountains and regions where there was no access. We also teamed up with a non-profit organization from Florida to perform search and rescue missions,” he said.
The skills and teamwork mindset that he developed as a Marine and an AFMC employee transferred to his ability to help the organization and the people who needed him most. Febo also explained how they gained support through social media.
“Finding those resources would be impossible without those new technologies. It turned out to be the best tool to reach out to the community at large over in the United States,” he said.
For Febo, the greatest benefit he has received from AFMC is the opportunity to grow as a person and a leader. Before arriving at AFMC, he had only military experience in logistics and training. Now he has the ability to discuss and provide feedback on requirements, research and development, intelligence capabilities, and policies that affect the larger Air Force mission.
“The opportunities here at AFMC and the Air Force have provided me the chance to develop a career, achieve life balance, have a family and maintain that ultimate dream so that I could experience things that were out of my reach when growing up,” he said.
When Febo does not have his white hat on, he finds enjoyment in competing in races. He has competed in triathlons, marathons and ultra-marathons. The farthest race distance he has competed is the Mohican 100-mile trail run here in Ohio.
“My life keeps me busy and can be very intense, but it is also very rewarding,” he said.
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