EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
With the inception of the F-35 mission at Eielson Air Force Base, one might be inclined to overlook the longstanding F-16 Aggressor mission that has been a mainstay of Eielson for many years. There’s one man who is passionate about ensuring people have an acute appreciation for the “Red Air” mission that has been at the center of the RED FLAG-Alaska exercises for over a decade.
As a champion of the RF-A mission, Alfred Valero, a 354th Maintenance Squadron field engineer, ensures all Airmen under his watch understand its importance.
Valero’s decision to enlist roots from his desire to please his late father who served in Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan during the Cold War era.
“My father, Oswald A. Valero, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1948 as a ‘cook’s helper’ and retired as an Air Force master sergeant working for budget, finance and accounting in 1970 from the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing, 347th Combat Support Group, Pacific Air Forces,” said Valero.
Affectionately known as “Mr. V,” Valero served in the Marine Corps from 1978 to 1984 as an avionics airborne missile control system specialist. He was then discharged following a leg injury resulting from a motorcycle accident that rendered him unable to continue serving as a Marine.
Desiring to continue service to the Corps, he worked with Hughes Aircraft Company. However, he repeatedly received assignments to Air Force bases despite his previous enlistment in the Marine Corps.
“As a military brat, whose father was in the Air Force, a sense of connection to sister services has existed in some form or fashion for much of my life,” said Valero.
After working at Tyndall AFB for 14 years and Nellis AFB for two, Valero declined multiple unaccompanied assignments to Kunsan, South Korea.
“My five year old son, Jackson suffered a traumatic brain injury which required special care, making it unfeasible for me to be away from my family,” he said.
Valero’s prioritization of family and service commitment are the very factors that led to him accepting an assignment to Eielson in 2005. Now a mainstay in the North Star Borough, Valero and his family have been living in Salcha, Alaska for over 15 years.
Now working as a 354th MXS field engineer, Valero is responsible for providing on-site maintenance training and logistic support for U.S. Air Force operations and maintenance organizations using Air Force Quick Reaction Capability systems such as the AN/ALQ-188 Electronic Attack Pods and the AN/GLM-10 Countermeasures test set.
“These assets make Eielson’s F-16 fleet distinct from most F-16s in the world and are the backbone to the Aggressor mission at Eielson,” he said.
As a former Marine with vast knowledge and experience working with different types of aircraft, Valero now provides technical guidance and hands-on technical training to Airmen supporting the “Red Air” capabilities at Eielson, enhancing their growth and proficiency.
In addition, he also collaborates with off-site engineers as well as personnel on temporary duty assignments to Eielson in order to resolve technical or logistical problems and provides assistance to the equipment operators. Having his on-site direction and specialized knowledge helps prevent delays in technical assistance and maintenance bottlenecks.
Valero is also known for disseminating a RED FLAG orientation video that details the significance of the Aggressor mission at Eielson as it pertains to pilots.
“I believe in imparting the mission to my Airmen so that they possess a comprehensive understanding of not only how to accomplish the mission, but also why they accomplish the mission,” he said.
His dedication to service doesn’t end with the superb technical assistance he provides or the mentorship he doles out, he shares a genuine connection with the maintenance community he supports.
“We in our uniformed services have a common characteristic that we believe in something much larger than ourselves and that draws us to one another,” he said. “Knowing that we’re all in this together, therefore [we should] help each other.”
Airmen of all ranks seek his sage advice and aid in all manner of situations. Whether it’s technical guidance, vehicle advice, or leadership perspectives, this former Marine has a wealth of knowledge to impart on the current generation of Airmen.
A former coworker of his, Tech. Sgt. Michael Gregory, former 354th Maintenance Squadron avionics section chief, has nothing but admiration and respect for Valero.
“The man may not wear a uniform, but you can tell within ten minutes of sitting and talking with him that he still lives his life to the Corps’ standards,” said Gregory. “I believe the phrase goes, ‘once a Marine, always a Marine!’”
As a second generation Venezuelan American, Valero takes pride in his father’s legacy and military service.
“I am proud that his desire to serve was instilled in me,” said Valero. “I am proud to be his son and will strive to continue serving on his behalf.”