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Guam ideals, Air Force opportunities – One WPLO’s recipe for happiness

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Rachelle Morris
  • Seventh Air Force Public Affairs

Guaiya i familia-mu.  

In the native language in Guam, Chamorro, this means, “Love your family.” As a collectivist culture, their families almost always comes first.

For Master Sgt. Darwin Valencia, 607th Material Maintenance Squadron (607th MMS), a Filipino born and raised in  Guam, it was the love for the family he hoped to one day create, which drove him to join the U.S. Air Force.

“The number one reason I joined was because I fell in love,” he said. “I was dating my now wife, and I felt like I needed to step it up. I wanted to keep her and I didn’t know what to do - I wasn’t going to school and I was working two jobs.”

Valencia said he wanted to marry her and put a roof over her head where they could live on their own and explore the world.  Seventeen years later, he met all those goals and then some.

Valencia and his wife, Ji-hee, now have four kids, three boys and a girl, and are living at their assignment of choice for at least three years.

“I have been trying to get to Korea my whole career,” he said. “My wife is from here - born in Songtan. She also lived in Asan for a while before moving to Guam where we met.”

Valencia didn’t get the typical Republic of Korea (ROK) assignment to Osan Air Base or Kunsan Air Base. He is the only Air Force assigned to Pusan Air Base, also known as Pier 8, in Busan, one of the ROK’s top travel destinations located along the Southern coastline of the country.

“As a Water Port Liaison Officer, my duty is to manage transportation and liaison services on behalf of all U.S. Air Force organizations in Korea with Traffic Management throughout the Korean Peninsula, Republic of Korea Army Port Operation Group (ROKPOG), ROK customs agencies, and commercial shipping companies,” he said. “I am the U.S. Air Force representative during any joint or inter-service work group meeting concerning sea-lift operations.  I also provide assistance to shippers to assure compliance with Host Nation (HN) and USAF Traffic Management procedures.”

This includes planning, controlling and coordinating with the U.S. Army, ROKPOG, and eleven Air Force installations for movement of cargo arriving and departing Korea through six sea ports.

“Additionally, I am required to articulate host nation and Defense Department customs pre-clearance and border clearance policy,” Valencia said. “Finally, I support munitions priorities and arbitrate monetary settlements for mis-shipped commercial cargo detained by Korean Customs.”

He is only the third rotation to take this seat under the 607th MMS.

Valencia’s main goal is to build up a training programs for his customers so as to avoid setbacks in the shipment process. Among common problems are failing agricultural and customs inspections due to the presence of soil or pest infestations.

“I want to eliminate delays in movement which can cause a lot of frustration,” he said.

For Valencia, this means putting in some overtime, but his wife’s backing keeps him motivated.

“She has been my rock and major supporter in everything I do,” he said. “She has never held me back from doing anything. When I have to work late hours, she says just come home when you are ready to come home, do what you have to do.”

Valencia says with his family by his side, he feels like he can do anything.