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Airman’s drive to serve leads to missile warning

Senior Airman Justin D. Paschal, 2nd Space Warning Squadron data systems operator, stands in front of a radome that helps him communicate with spacecraft July 22, 2015, at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Paschal works to analyze data collected from a spacecraft and reports what is collected. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke W. Nowakowski/Released)

Senior Airman Justin D. Paschal, 2nd Space Warning Squadron data systems operator, stands in front of a radome that helps him communicate with spacecraft July 22, 2015, at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Paschal works to analyze data collected from a spacecraft and reports what is collected. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke W. Nowakowski/Released)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- With one of the most mission critical jobs on base, Senior Airman Justin, 2nd Space Warning Squadron data systems operator, has to be "locked in" to make sure the bases mission of missile defense is carried out at the maximum efficiency.

Originally from Augusta, Georgia, Justin had to work to make his dream of becoming an Airman a reality.

"It took a lot for me to get here. I had to go from 275 pounds to 198 pounds," Justin said. "I wanted a job, a nice career, something to get me out of my city so I could learn different trades."

Justin had to use unconventional methods to make sure his weight got down to the level needed to get into the Air Force.

"I'm eating bags of salad like Doritos and I was only drinking water. I pretty much became a vegan for about four months. It was the worst time of my life," Justin explained. "I was making sauna suits because I was too broke to buy one. I would get about four or five sweaters and pairs of pants and sit in a Bonneville that had no air conditioning, leather seats and none of the windows would go down. I really wanted to get in." 

Once making the Air Force weight requirements, Justin was assigned to space systems operations after scoring high on the electrical and mechanical portions of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. After technical training, Paschal was assigned to the 2 SWS at Buckley Air Force Base and has been here ever since.

"I'm really happy now," Justin said. "It is a very rewarding job and I've learned a lot."

Justin's job directly correlates with Buckley Air Force Bases main mission of missile warning.

"Senior Airman Justin is a data systems operator for the new Space Based Infrared System Block 10 weapon system, supporting a critical strategic mission for United States Strategic Command," said 1st Lt. Radonis, 2 SWS deputy flight commander. "In this capacity, he is a member of the initial cadre of operators who are charged with testing the system's functionality and operability to make progress towards operations acceptance. Senior Airman Paschal has supported over 15 system development tests to date."

Deciphering whether or not data being presented is threat-worthy or just a system error is something Justin deals with as data systems operator, and attention to detail is a priority in his line of work. 

"When an event populates on your screen, you have to know what is real versus what may just be a system issue," Justin said. "You have to monitor it very closely to understand what is what, whether it's a real threat or not."

Justin has faced real-world situations in which his job required him to do a series of tasks within a short period of time. When defending the country and allies against the threat of incoming missiles, time is of the essence.

"When it first happens, your nervous because all you've had is simulations and training," Justin recounted. "When it's the real deal you're nervous but you have to get over that and remember what you were trained for and do it to the best of your ability. It is a bit of an adrenaline rush."

Since response time is a big part of missile defense, Paschal says that interferences with the satellites can be one of the more frustrating parts of his job.

"Patience is the most difficult part of my job," Justin said. "If something was to populate on the screen, you have to collect it. You need to be patient so that you can collect the correct data from a certain coordinate in order to get the accuracy needed."

Although the job can be frustrating and stressful at times, Paschal finds pride in what he gets to do every day. 

"I enjoy what I do," Justin said. "Sometimes you may feel like you're not contributing to the overall picture but when you sit down and take a look at it, I understand that I helped and I let people know to take certain measures to protect themselves. It fills me up with a sense of pride because coming from where I'm from, to actually do something this big, this important - it really boosts your self-esteem."
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