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The chance to be greater

  • Published
  • By Darrius Parker

Air Force Capt. Joshua Lee knew as a kid that he wanted to be part of the U.S. military.

 “I always wanted to be in the military. My dad was in the Coast Guard for 21 years, so I have always known the military lifestyle. I knew I wanted to join, but I didn’t know which branch to go into,” said Lee. “Part of me wanted to join the Coast Guard to honor my dad, and the other part wanted to join the Air Force because I saw how the Air Force takes care of its people.”

Lee, born in Massachusetts, spent his childhood in numerous locations in the U.S. as part of a military family. His motivation to join the military increased as he observed his father serving 21 years in the Coast Guard.

He settled on the Air Force, and his first position was an environmental control system engineer for the F-22 Raptor at Wright-Patterson AFB. Although he was accustomed to moving around as a kid, Lee soon realized that moving was not as easy as it seemed to be.

Starting fresh in different communities was much harder as an adult as was keeping up with his friends.

“Moving is very tough, but it also makes you stronger and more resilient. As a kid, it was not a big deal because you can always make new friends. When you are older, it becomes more difficult,” said Lee. “However, the Air Force is small, and you have friends everywhere. It is important to utilize those opportunities. This has made me a more outgoing person.”

After two years at Wright-Patterson, Lee’s next assignment took him to Eglin AFB to be a weapon airframe flight team lead for the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). He has been at Eglin AFB for three years, and today he is the deputy branch chief of weapon dynamic guidance navigation and controls for small UAS at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

As well as making sure everyone is accomplishing their job as efficiently as possible while they complete their research and development, Lee arranges meetings with management to ensure network weapons, navigation and guidance GPS, and guidance and control for weapons are equipped to the fullest.

 “The military makes you appreciate certain things. I wake up each day appreciative of my job and what I do. Ultimately, protecting this nation is the main goal,” he said.

One of the advantages he appreciates is the opportunity to further his education. Lee received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Clemson University, and his master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT).

In addition to education, Lee appreciates the networking opportunities that helped him to learn more and excel in ways he never thought possible. He believes that he has discovered a purpose greater than himself through service.   

“There are a lot of ways to excel, and the Air Force turned me into something great I never thought was even possible for myself. My dad was enlisted in the Coast Guard, and here I am as an officer in the Air Force,” he said.

Lee obtained his second chance to attend the annual Air, Space and Cyber Conference this year where he showcased the munitions directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory booth. At the conference, said Lee, it is easy to see how big the Air Force actually is and how many people are involved in making missions possible. Because Lee has worked in AFMC since 2013, the 2019 AFA Conference gave him a greater perspective on the size of the Air Force and how AFMC plays into that picture.

“People always say that the Air Force is small, but seeing all the people and organizations at the conference makes you think differently. I get to see people from my past, but I also get to see the amount of work that is being done for the Air Force. It is great because when I have conversations with others, I get more of a scope on what different things are going on outside of AFRL,” he said.

Lee’s future goal is to reach at least 20 years of service and retire in the Air Force. He plans to stay in as long as he can, and go as far as he can go as an officer. The Air Force is his passion, and it is his profession.

 “I love what I do every single day, and that allows me to wake up happy. I always feel ecstatic to go to work every day, so I wouldn’t change a thing. If someone loves what they are doing, then they never have to work a day in their life,” he said.

Whether a person decides to be active duty in the military to protect this nation by putting on the uniform, or by working as a civilian to support the Air Force mission by contributing innovation and an outside perspective, each person in the Air Force has taken the opportunity to be part of something greater.

This story is part of a series to show who the people are within AFMC. It features not just those who wear the uniform, but a diverse set of military and civilians across AFMC. Whether civilian or military, all are Airmen supporting the Air Force mission