Ohio National Guard News

From Mexico to Mansfield:
An Ohio Air National Guard member's story

Story and photo by Airman Alexis Wade, 179th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Staff Sgt. Arsenio H. Hernandez, a cyber security specialist at the 179th Airlift Wing Communications Squadron, poses for a photo Oct. 9, 2018, at the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield, Ohio. Hernandez, who grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Sinaloa, Mexico, moved to Ohio when he was 16 to find greater opportunities, eventually becoming a U.S. citizen and joining the military one month later. (Ohio National Guard photo by Airman Alexis Wade)

MANSFIELD, Ohio (10/15/18) — At 5 years old, his parents went their separate ways. His father worked all the time and his mother was not around for the following decade, so he spent most of his time with his grandmother in Sinaloa, Mexico, which has been infamously called that country’s drug capital. Growing up in an area with a population of approximately 256,000, he lived in a neighborhood of what he described as housing for low income individuals. Cement homes built by the government, one right after another with not even a hint of grass in between. Walking a mile to and from school each day on paved and unpaved roads, this was just a way of life for him.

That was his life until he turned 16, when he moved to Ohio in hopes for a better future, and eventually joined the Ohio Air National Guard.

According to Military One Source, Hispanic service members make up 13.5 percent of the total U.S. military force. Staff Sgt. Arsenio H. Hernandez, a cyber security specialist at the 179th Airlift Wing, is one of them.

The Department of Defense celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 each year, recognizing Hispanic Americans serving in the armed forces who are a vital asset to the military’s every day operations, as well as being a key part of our diversified military.

For Hernandez, Hispanic Heritage Month is important because he said it recognizes the obstacles individuals go through that others may not experience, while acknowledging those who have embraced and became a part of another culture.

While describing his transition from Mexico to Ohio, Hernandez said having a good mindset was a major key, which enabled him to quickly overcome any challenges thrown his way. From his very first step into the U.S., he felt overjoyed and grateful for his future, although he knew it would be much different than what he was used to.

“Accepting change was a major aspect of it,” Hernandez said. “I like being exposed to new things and I like obstacles, so coming to the states was just something new, having to learn the language and just overcoming those obstacles.”

One obstacle he would face was becoming a U.S. citizen. When Hernandez first arrived in the United States, he became a permanent resident through his stepfather. In November 2012, he completed the final steps and became a citizen, opening up the door for the next venture he would take on. The decision Hernandez made would present him with more opportunities to learn new things and to overcome more obstacles, that being to join the Ohio Air National Guard. As for his decision in becoming an Air National Guard member, it was much simpler of a process than his 5-year-old daughter seemed to think.

“She asked, ‘how did you become a guardian daddy?’ thinking it was from an emperor of some sort who handpicked me to be in this role,” Hernandez said laughing.

It actually happened more out of chance, crossing paths at the right time with a coworker who had just recently enlisted at the 179th AW.

Hernandez was working at Home Depot and was assigned to work with now-Staff Sgt. Joshua Yeager, who was excitedly telling him about his newest adventure, joining the 179th AW. He shared that he was going to be a services specialist, which peaked Hernandez’s interest. Growing up in Mexico watching sitcoms that depicted all U.S. military members as “trained killers,” he didn’t realize there were other jobs out there. Once learning the benefits and opportunities the OHANG presented him and his family, Hernandez was sold and enlisted at the 179th AW, only one month after becoming a U.S. citizen.

After being a part of the 179th Airlift Wing for six years now, Hernandez said the National Guard is a family and he couldn’t imagine not being in the Air Force. Hernandez has found success in his career field; in 2016, he was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Cyber Operations Airman of the Year as part of the Air Force Information Dominance Awards for Excellence in Warfighting Integration.

Hernandez said that one thing he hopes to come from the Hispanic Heritage Month, is that people who see themselves with challenges or labels because of where they came from, will see stories like his and realize that they can do whatever they set their mind to.

“It doesn’t matter where we come from, or what we’re made of, or what we’ve been told,” he said. “We are all humans at the end of the day and are all capable of great things.”

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