Child of war: The journey of an American Airman

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Rito Smith
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

With nearly one year of his four-year enlistment completed, Airman 1st Class Seng Thao, a medical records technician assigned to the 6th Medical Support Squadron (MDSS), slowly leaves behind a trail of struggles he overcame as a Hmong Refugee in Ban Vinai, Thailand.

His chosen career path began in March 2015. Thao signed his enlistment contract, raised his right hand, and swore to serve and protect his country against enemies both foreign and domestic.

Since then, Thao has embarked on a tremendous journey starting with eight and a half weeks of Basic Military Training (BMT) at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

“Being able to work with so many different people in BMT really opened my eyes to the diversity in the Air Force,” said Thao. “That helped me understand what it meant to be in the Air Force.”

Following BMT graduation, Thao knew what his job would be, but had no idea how his technical school would affect his life.

Thao remembers feeling shock after arriving to Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, because of how extremely different the atmosphere was from BMT.

“At first it was weird to have so much freedom, but I realized it was more about learning self-discipline in order to be successful,” said Thao. “We had to come together as a class to succeed.”

Although different, the ultimate goal remained the same: to help build and mold him into the great Airman he wanted to be.

“I just loved how intense technical training was,” said Thao. “Everyone focused on becoming good students and good Airmen, and that really rubs off on people.”

Upon graduating technical school, Thao continued on to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. Arriving on June 8, 2016, he immediately started on-the-job training to become a successful central records technician.

“Airman Thao has a thirst for knowledge that is awesome,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Velez-Grieco, NCO in charge of central records, assigned to the 6th MDSS. “He constantly asks why we do things a certain way, but also asks how we can improve our processes.”

Although his primary focus is to learn his job to the best of his ability, Thao finds time to engage in the community and participate in volunteer activities as well.

“I’ve volunteered for Habitat for Humanity organizing items for building a home, and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) where I mentored a kid who lost a family member,” said Thao. “My favorite was TAPS because it really showed me how I can make an impact on people.”

Becoming a good Airman and volunteering are only the first steps in Thao’s plan to enhance his career as a medical records technician and Airman.

“As an Airman I really want to gain as much knowledge as I can and eventually commission into the Medical Service Corp,” said Thao. “I want to serve for at least 20 years and hopefully inspire new Airmen and impact their lives the way my mentors have done for me.”

One of Thao’s most fond achievements was when he was coined by Col April Vogel the 6th Air Mobility Wing Commander and Chief Master Sgt. Melanie Noel the 6th Air Mobility Wing Command Chief for being a dedicated and motivated Airman.

Though it’s been a long journey, Thao knows there is more to be done and even more to give back. As a result, he continues to strive every day to be the best Airman he can be.