Turning Mental Blocks into Building Blocks: Eielson Shirts

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Schoubroek
  • 354th Fighter Wing

A first sergeant once said, “I woke up and did sprints this morning, nothing I face throughout the rest of my day will be harder than that.”

The word “doubt” is defined as “an uncertainty of belief or opinion that often interferes with decision making.” The definition was probably not necessary. Doubt is a word and a feeling that we are all too familiar with.

“I doubted myself in high school, I doubted myself when it came to joining the military,” said Master Sgt. Oniel Hernandez, 354th Force Support Squadron first sergeant. “I doubted my marriage. I doubted that I could be a good first sergeant”

Hernandez grew up a first generation American Dominican. When he was younger, he didn’t have a lot of adult supervision and because his parents were Spanish-speaking and neither had graduated high school themselves, they unfortunately were unable to help with his school work. Only two out of five of Hernandez’s siblings graduated high school.

“I believe my self doubt occurred because I had to teach myself,” said Hernandez. “I always questioned my ability to join the military due to my education. But now, I am currently working on my Masters’ degree.”

It seemed like every season of his life was filled with doubt. Doubt was the one thing that was always consistent.

“Whenever there is doubt, the goal is to not listen to it and face it head on,” said Hernandez. “Over time, your confidence levels build.”

This was not a solution that Hernandez had figured out overnight or on his own. It has taken 13 years in service, mentorship, physical and mental training, and discipline.

“The military has given me this environment and structure to grow. I don’t know where I’d be without it,” said Hernandez. “I've met quality people. All this has made me a better person, a better husband, father and first sergeant.”

Over time Hernandez has learned that he could use his own doubtful experiences as a “cheat sheet” for his job as a first sergeant.

“I use my stories to help other people get through their things,” he said. “If someone comes into my office and they are going through things that I’ve experienced before, I'm in my bag. My own life experiences help me shirt.”