DVIDS – News – Defining my future: The aviator faces adversity, instills tenacity


“Growing up you are told that you are not going to go past 16 and if you did, it was a miracle,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Clark, weapon loader crew chief of the 80th Aircraft Maintenance Unit. “I wanted to make sure I was over 16.”

Clark grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Gangs and drugs were everywhere, but he didn’t want to go down that road.

“I was with a group of friends, where we decided it was better to die in the military, than to die going to the convenience store and be called a gangster,” he said.

Not only aimed at preserving his own life, honoring Clark’s cousin, who died in the Twin Towers on 9/11, also played a role in his decision to enlist.

Clark said he initially decided to join the military, but was rejected due to previous arrests. He faced rejection from every branch until he spoke to an Air Force recruiter.

After a four-year waiver process, Clark was finally able to enlist.

“When I first arrived, a lot of people told me I didn’t belong here,” he added. “A security official told me that I was not in his air force, and that made me think I would not keep my first engagement,” Clark said. “But I’ve seen a lot of changes since taking office, and a lot of changes are for the better.”

Despite adversity early in his career, Clark is now in his third engagement. He empowers his team to execute the mission, while leading with empathy and treating each Airman with dignity and respect.

“I’ve known him for a little over three years and he’s a very good individual,” said Master Sgt. Jacob Maldonado, 80th AMU Quality Assurance Inspector. “He always tries to be the best supervisor and a good role model. Whenever the Airmen got into trouble, he was always there to help them through it all. He is very loyal and passionate about what he does.

Clark’s main motivation for everything he does is his wife, Betina, and two children, Bella and Maximus.

“I think my job, especially now as a non-commissioned officer, is for airmen who come into the military not to see or feel what I’ve been through,” Clark said. “My children could fit into this [Air Force] so i really want to leave it better than what i got into. If I can make the world a better place by doing things or taking care of the people who might make these changes in the future, then I have done my job and done my job for my children. They are my soul.

The Air Force offered him opportunities he never would have had if he hadn’t enlisted. Clark has traveled, met diverse people, and worked with different countries in a common environment. Clark believes that an inclusive air force can better accomplish its mission of flying, fighting, and gaining… air power anytime, anywhere.

“We don’t just represent ourselves or our last names; we represent a whole country, ”he said. “To be the best America, and to be the best air force, we have to branch out and include everyone so they can feel accepted.”

Clark is proud of the direction the Air Force is taking in diversity and inclusion, including the recent recognition of Juneteenth as a federal holiday. He is especially proud, however, of the way the Air Force has shaped his life.

“I felt like the Air Force helped me define myself as the man I am today,” Clark said. “I am a father, a proud husband and I am proud to be a troop of arms. I am proud to be in the United States Air Force.

Date taken: 06/29/2021
Date posted: 06/29/2021 12:14 AM
Story ID: 399945
Location: KR

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