Watch the Interview
Listen to the Interview
Listen to Learn:
Scroll down for a transcript of the show
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
Col. Ochoa is responsible for organizing, training, and equipping the personnel who operate, maintain, and sustain more than 62 C-130 aircraft. The wing provides combat-ready forces to meet combatant commanders' requirements globally. She ensures support for combat, contingency, and humanitarian requirements around the world while providing for the health and welfare of more than 10,000 personnel and families at Little Rock AFB.
Update: In June 2023, Colonel Ochoa moved to Maryland to take command of the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews.
[00:00:07] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners and insider’s view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and down or risk taking. Connect through Kerry through her candid, funny, informative, and always encouraging weekly blog. And now it’s time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your busines.
[00:00:32] KM: It is not every day you get a chance to have an in-depth conversation with someone as extraordinary as my guest today, Colonel Angela Ochoa, the 19th Airlift Wing Commander at Little Rock Air Force Base. For the first time in the history of the base, the highest position of command belongs to a woman. Colonel Ochoa says her dreams are coming true with her new role, but that doesn't change anything for her. Entering the Air Force in 2001, after graduating from the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Ochoa became a Command Pilot. Having now flown more than 2800 hours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Resolute Support, Operation Freedom Centennial. For over two decades, Angela has served her country, seen the world, tested her sensibilities and honed her skills. It is my pleasure to welcome to the table the creative, intelligent and extraordinary woman, mother and wife, Colonel Angela Ochoa.
[00:01:38] AO: Thank you.
[00:01:40] KM: Well, thank you. You are very busy. I just want to tell our listeners that it took me months to get you on the radio, because you're so busy, and that you have a very limited time. So we're going to jump right into it.
[00:01:52] AO: Let's do it.
[00:01:53] KM: Okay. It wasn't until I read your bio that I realized that you're not a general. You are a colonel. And for us layperson, please explain the differences.
[00:02:04] AO: Well, as a colonel, that is a rank that I hold right now. And it's really simply I’m a colonel in the Air Force. I’m not a general. That is something that the Air Force and all of our military services have different rank structures. And that is, a general is a generalist. And they are the most-tiered leaders in our military service.
[00:02:28] KM: Is that a goal for?
[00:02:30] AO: My goal right now is to be the best leader I can be for the men and women at Little Rock Air Force Base.
[00:02:36] KM: Before we talk about training and joining the service in the Air Force Base, let's talk about the beginning of your life. A life that set you on this path. Have you always known you wanted to fly?
[00:02:45] AO: No, ma'am. Not at all. I know, it sounds a little crazy. But I didn't even know that the Air Force existed when I started. When I was a little girl, I grew up. I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do. I loved math. I loved science, specifically biology. And I thought, "Okay. Well, we'll see where this goes." There was a neighbor that was an air liaison officer for the United States Air Force Academy. And he lived across the street from me. And he was working on his roof one day and called down from the roof as my mom and I were getting the car and said, "Hey, Angela, why don't you come on over to my house and I’ll sit down and tell you about the Air Force Academy." And I remember looking at my mom and I told her, "I don't know what the Air Force Academy is, but I don't want anything to do with it. Let's just get in the car and go." And she looked at me and she said, "That's fine. But you're going to go over to his house and you're going to sit down and have a conversation. And we'll see where this goes."
So, begrudgingly, I went over to his house and sat down in his office and he told me about the Air Force Academy. And I still wasn't convinced at that point in time, but convinced enough that I signed up and was accepted into a program out at the Air Force Academy called the Summer Scientific Seminar. And I went out there and quite literally just fell in love with the Air Force, with the people that I met, and knew that it was a team that I wanted to be a part of.
[00:04:05] KM: How old were you?
[00:04:06] AO: Right now?
[00:04:07] KM: No. Right then?
[00:04:08] AO: Then? I was 16-years-old. And when I went out there and fell in love with the Air Force, I still really didn't quite grasp what it was that they did. This was prior to 9/11. The Air Force existed, but it wasn't quite big in my life or really in my community. So went out there. Decided I wanted to apply I wanted to somehow be involved. But quite frankly, it was a way to get an education. A way to help me get my college degree and move on and figure out what I wanted to do in life.
And I was lucky enough to be accepted to the air force academy. Went out there. Studied biology. Still didn't know anything about flying. And didn't quite know what I was going to do in the Air Force, but showed up. And it was my junior year at the Air Force academy. So I was probably 20, 21 at the time, that General Mark Welsh, he was the Commandant of Cadets at the time. And he is now General Retired Mark Welsh, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force. He gave a speech to a presentation. Beautiful speech to all the cadets. And I remember sitting in there listening to him talk about his experiences as a pilot, as a leader, as a combat warrior. And I remember walking out of there at night and thinking to myself, "Hmm, maybe that's what I want to do. Maybe I’ll try that pilot thing." And that's where it started. But I didn't know what I was going to do. There's lots of different careers that you can have in the Air Force. I did not realize that that was going to be where I landed.
[00:05:42] KM: I see.
[00:05:43] AO: Yes.
[00:05:43] KM: And how many people – I think people always think you're going to go into active duty when you join the service. But when you just said there's a lot of different careers, do you know what percentage of people in the military of all branches actually ever end up in active duty?
[00:06:01] AO: I don't know that off of my head.
[00:06:02] KM: Is it large or small would you say?
[00:06:04] AO: I would probably say it's not as big as we think it is, especially these days. It is an all-volunteer force that one that you have to choose. You have to choose to serve.
[00:06:14] KM: So I guess I don't have to ask if you come from a military family. So what did your parents do that made you so – I don't know. Ambitious?
[00:06:25] AO: Well, my parents, they raised me and my brothers, I have three younger brothers, with an attitude focused on faith and service. And they raised us saying that it really doesn't matter what you do, as long as you do it in love of others, love for God and in service to humanity. And that's kind of what led me to this, is I saw this as a way to live out my calling and to live out the way that my parents raised me.
[00:06:52] KM: And it also leads you to the career you need to have if you're serving other. You will always end up where you're supposed to be if you do that. I think when you focus too much on yourself and where you're going to be and what you're going to do, you just end up fighting all the time to figure it out. You're kind of your own worst enemy or something.
[00:07:08] AO: I agree.
[00:07:10] KM: After you graduated from the academy, what'd you do first? Where were you sent?
[00:07:16] AO: So graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2001.
[00:07:20] KM: Is that considered a master's degree when you come out? Or is that just a regular bachelor's degree?
[00:07:23] AO: Bachelor's degree. Yes, ma'am. Got a bachelor's degree in biological sciences. And at first, I was waiting for my pilot slot to open up. My husband and I, we got married in July of 2001. I met him at the Air Force Academy. And I’m convinced that we would not have met had I not gone there. So I don't know how our lives would have crossed otherwise. But we graduated there. And he ended up staying on and taught at the Air Force Academy. And I ended up working in the medical group. That was just a temporary assignment for both of us until we could go off to pilot training, which is about a two-year journey to get to an operational aircraft.
So he worked for the Department of Mathematics there, and then I worked in the hospital. While we were there, that's when 9/11 happened, and OEF kicked off. And I ended up running exercises and training for the medical group. And it was a really interesting experience, because that entire medical group deployed. And so everybody that was left behind had to kind of pick up and run with things.
[00:08:29] KM: But you're not a trained nurse. You're just taught procedures on how to do an IV or –
[00:08:35] AO: Oh, no. No, not that. I did help with some CPR classes, and I helped track a lot of training. So some admin work was really what I was helping out with.
[00:08:44] KM: So let's talk about your husband. He was a pilot.
[00:08:46] AO: Yes.
[00:08:48] KM: He had a pretty bad health scare in 2014, which changed your life forever. Does he still teach?
[00:08:54] AO: It did. No, he does not. Other than, I think, parenting is a lifelong journey in teaching. So he teaches every day when it comes to our kids.
[00:09:03] KM: So he's become the house husband?
[00:09:05] AO: He is. He is my right-hand man. But actually, our change in life happened even prior to 2014. So in 2009 we were both serving, and he suffered from a heart attack at the age of 30. And that is actually what led to him leaving military service. At the time, his condition, and what his status was, he needed to leave. And they medically discharged him. It was a blessing in disguise though for us, because shortly after he was medically separated, our daughter came along. And it was wonderful. So he was able to focus on her and focus on our kids. Stay at home and help raise them, which was just a treat and a joy. And he loves every moment of it. He loves being able to –
[00:09:47] KM: Oh. Little girls love their dad.
[00:09:48] AO: Yes.
[00:09:50] KM: I think this is funny. I read where you said there's not much difference being a female pilot, unless you have a baby.
[00:09:57] AO: Just a small difference there.
[00:09:59] KM: Just got to get off the flight line and go nurse for a minute, and I’ll be right back.
[00:10:02] AO: Or just do it right there.
[00:10:04] KM: Oh, there you go.
[00:10:05] AO: There you go. Yeah.
[00:10:07] KM: That's wonderful. This is a great place to take a break. It’s pretty fascinating. You could – I don’t know this. But you, with your training, could probably kill me with your little finger. But you get up there in these big buses, these C-130s. You fly across the world. You come back, make a baby, feed a baby, go back out. And it’s like this huge –
[00:10:32] GM: Two different worlds.
[00:10:33] KM: It’s like these huge two different worlds. I kind of want to sing the Helen Reddy song, “I am woman. Hear me roar.” You know what I mean?
All right. Well, this is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we will continue our conversation with the glass ceiling shatterer, Colonel Angela Ochoa, the highest commander at the Little Rock Air Force Base. Still to come, training, harnessing your fear, missions the colonel has flown on, and Little Rock Air Force strengths, weaknesses, and what is Herc nation. We’ll be right back.
[00:11:05] GM: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago, with only $400, Kerry founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed, along with Kerry’s experience and leadership knowledge. In 1995, she embraced the Internet and rebranded her company as simply flagandbanner.com.
In 2004, she became an early blogger. Since then, she has founded the nonprofit Friends of Dreamland Ballroom. Began publishing her magazine, Brave. And in 2016, branched out into this very radio show, YouTube channel and podcast. In 2020, Kerry McCoy Enterprises ourcornermarket.com, an online company specializing in American-made plaques, signage, and memorials for over 20 years. And more recently, opened a satellite office in Miami, Florida. Telling American-made stories, selling American-made flags, the flagandbanner.com.
[00:12:06] ANNOUNCER: You know, all previous Up in Your Business shows are available as podcasts, and on YouTube. And last week’s show was especially heartwarming as we head into a brand New Year. It featured many guests who’d appeared on the program in the past 18 months or so who worked from the Little Rock area, but once they got here, they fell in love with it. Listen to it. It’s available as a podcast. Here are some samples.
[00:12:32] KM: So how did you end up in Little Rock, Arkansas?
[00:12:34] CO: Well, coming from Connecticut, I moved just a few times. We moved to Atlanta, Georgia for a year and a half and then from there we moved to Little Rock, and we lived in Little Rock for about 3-1/2 years and then we moved to San Diego.
[00:12:48] KM: Good night nurse.
[00:12:49] CO: We kept going west.
[00:12:50] KM: Why did you daddy – Was it all for career?
[00:12:53] CO: Every time he moved he got a better, better job.
[00:12:56] ANNOUNCER: Sophia Said.
[00:12:58] KM: So you moved here.
[00:12:59] SS: Yeah.
[00:13:00] KM: And tell us a little bit about that.
[00:13:02] SS: I actually wanted to pursue my PhD after my bachelors. Initially, it was a bummer for me that, “Oh, we're moving to Little Rock,” and there is not a place where I can do my PhD.
[00:13:13] KM: Did you all hear? She said bummer? Okay, I just want you to know that. Okay, go ahead. She’s very American. Alright. Go ahead.
[00:13:19] SS: But then when I did my research on Little Rock, I found Clinton School of Public Service, which is essentially going to teach me the same things, but at least the work I'll do after that would be same. I was actually pretty excited that we will see American South.
[00:13:34] ANNOUNCR: Long-time restauranteur, Louis Petit.
[00:13:37] LP: I was so happily surprised [inaudible 00:13:39]. First, the way we are greeted by the – Just to tell you an example. [inaudible 00:13:47] top of the building. When we arrived, the kitchen was not functioning. We were putting still rug on the floor, hanging chandelier and everything. So we would go every lunch, the group of all the European. We were about 15 people I think altogether. We would go to the Minuteman downstairs, it was a burger place, to have lunch. And we would sit down in a big table. And the public would come to us and say, “Welcome to our city.” Oh my God! Because just hearing us speaking French, laughing – Everything was new to us. And they were so nice — the little girl behind the counter taking our order. And the public coming to us and say, “Welcome to Arkansas.”
[00:14:32] Announcer: Now, back to this week’s Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy.
[00:14:35] KM: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. And I’m speaking today with Colonel Angela Ochoa, the highest commander at the Little Rock Air Force Base and history maker as being first woman to hold that position.
[00:15:13] AO: I did.
[00:15:14] KM: What was your mission? Did you fly those big planes C-130s in? Or what did you do?
[00:15:20] AO: Yes. I love the Herc. It's been not the only aircraft I’ve flown, but primarily the only aircraft I’ve flown, and I love it. It's a great mission. We very versatile. And yes, all of my combat experience was in the C-130.
[00:15:36] KM: Tell everybody what Herc means.
[00:15:38] AO: What Herc means? Well, Hercules.
[00:15:39] KM: What Herc nation is?
[00:15:41] AO: Herc nation. So it's a term. I didn't make it up. I’m not going to claim credit for that. Some of my predecessors did come up with the concept of it. But really, it's a mindset. It's a mindset that we all work together. You give us a problem, we'll find the solution. That's the Herc mindset. And we're really proud of it. But Herc nation is a group of people that come together to get those C-130s out there at Little Rock Air Force Base up in the air. And we're all dedicated to that mission.
[00:16:08] KM: It's a Lockheed Martin C-130 named Hercules. And so they come out with Herc.
[00:16:15] AO: That's right.
[00:16:16] KM: And so Herc is a mindset of all those things you just said.
[00:16:19] AO: I think so.
[00:16:20] KM: And for the people that can't see your face. When you said them, you said it with very –
[00:16:24] GM: Glowing. And kind of light up a little bit. Yeah.
[00:16:26] KM: She did very resolute in the way she said that. So you flew into, I guess, hostile territory, and dropped packages, dropped people?
[00:16:41] AO: Yes. We've done a little bit of everything.
[00:16:43] KM: But for this mission, was it for people to jump out of your plane? To drop packages?
[00:16:51] AO: So I’ve been deployed five times. And they've all been in support of many different things. Been in Afghanistan. Been in Iraq. Been in lots of different countries in support of different missions, combat and combat support. Most of them have been air-land missions. Meaning we take off from one location and we fly to another location and land. I have done some combat air drop missions as well where we've delivered bullets, food, water, humanitarian missions. So there is a full spectrum of operations that can happen in any conflict. And I’m proud to say that I’ve been a part of all of them.
[00:17:35] KM: How did your training help you? My teeth would have been chattering.
[00:17:40] AO: So that's the beauty of it. In my mind, we train for this. And there is nothing more gratifying than going out the door knowing that you are fully qualified, fully trained, and you're surrounded by people that are fully qualified and fully trained. And we know how to get it done. And it's the training that gets us there. That's why we fly the planes every day. That's why we keep flying those planes every day, because at the end of the day, I want to make sure that we're sending out our crews on their missions with full confidence in their abilities to get whatever it is done that our nation asks of us.
[00:18:14] KM: So you fly every day.
[00:18:16] AO: I personally –
[00:18:17] KM: Yeah. But your base has someone flying every day, continuing training every day.
[00:18:22] AO: We support operations globally every single day.
[00:18:25] KM: Oh wow! Not just flying around Little Rock then?
[00:18:29] AO: We don't just fly around Little Rock.
[00:18:31] KM: So every day you're going out on a mission somewhere.
[00:18:35] AO: We have crews all over right now.
[00:18:39] KM: You still think about that right here. So when you said you land, I mean, how do you land those planes anywhere else? I mean, don't you have to have a special runway to land a plane like that?
[00:18:51] AO: Yes and no. And that's the beauty of the Herc, is that uh we can land on, very short strips, very narrow strips really, on dirt strips. And those are the fun ones too. Being able to go to unapproved landing zones and landing in a 3000-foot strip in the middle of nowhere. That's fun.
[00:19:09] KM: It tests your skills, I guess?
[00:19:11] AO: It does. It challenges you. It pushes you.
[00:19:13] KM: All right next one. We stayed a little long on that one. Operation Iraqi Freedom. Where was it? When was it? And what was its mission?
[00:19:19] AO: So deployed twice there. And Iraqi Freedom, one of my favorite memories from there, many missions over there, but one of my favorite memories was taking off out of Baghdad with about 60 army guys, two pallets, on Christmas eve. We had lights strung up in the back of the plane. We handed candy canes out. And I’ll never forget it, because when we took off, there was this uproar of cheer that happened, that came. I was in the front. They're in the back. And it just came up to the front. And I had headphones on. The engines are running. But I could hear their cheers over it, because they were going home. And that's one of my most memorable missions from Iraq. It was just so amazing.
[00:20:07] KM: That's a nice one.
[00:20:09] AO: It was good.
[00:20:10] KM: Operation Resolute Support. What year? Where? Mission? And your take away from it?
[00:20:16] AO: Yeah. So Resolute Support and Freedom Sentinel, those were missions that I actually just supported in my last combat deployment. That was when I was a commander in Afghanistan. And it was obviously prior to the drawdown of Afghanistan. But we were starting to prepare for that. Definitely, combat missions were going on. It was different in the sense that I was the commander of that unit at the time. So a lot more responsibility.
[00:20:41] KM: is that the recent drawdown?
[00:20:43] AO: Yes.
[00:20:44] KM: The one that just happened two months ago?
[00:20:45] AO: I was not in that. My deployment was back in 2017 [inaudible 00:20:49].
[00:20:49] KM: Oh. So they've been doing this Operation Resolute Support for a while.
[00:20:53] AO: For a while. Yeah. So very rewarding experience to be able to take my own unit and deploy with my unit and then bring them home. That was just a phenomenal experience.
[00:21:04] KM: What do you mean take your unit?
[00:21:06] AO: So I was the Commander of the 61st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base. We prepared for that deployment together as a team. We went out, we deployed and employed as a team. Got our mission done.
[00:21:17] KM: How long were you out?
[00:21:18] AO: About four months. And then came home –
[00:21:20] KM: Were you in Afghanistan?
[00:21:22] AO: We were in Afghanistan.
[00:21:24] KM: You were there yes with your babies?
[00:21:25] AO: Oh, my children were not there. No, ma'am.
[00:21:28] KM: With your husband at home with your babies?
[00:21:29] AO: My husband was at home.
[00:21:31] KM: Yeah, I’m glad —
[00:21:31] AO: My mom came as well.
[00:21:33] KM: Oh, good.
[00:21:33] AO: Yeah. So my husband had some other challenges. And so he needed some support too. My mom came down. And to my mom, and my husband and the whole village that it takes to keep my family afloat, they made sure they got through it.
[00:21:47] KM: That's good. Operation Freedom Centennial. What year? Where? Mission?
[00:21:52] AO: Same thing. Same time as when we were out there in Afghanistan.
[00:21:55] KM: What do you mean?
[00:21:56] AO: So sometimes when you're out in a specific area, you can be supporting multiple operations. So we were supporting two different operations [inaudible 00:22:05].
[00:22:05] KM: Oh. What was that one supporting? What were you doing for those people?
[00:22:08] AO: So same type of mission, just a different focus. So we were in Afghanistan and we were doing combat operations out there in Afghanistan.
[00:22:15] KM: I don't know if you're allowed to have an opinion, but I'll ask. And if you don't want to answer, you don't have to. Do you think we did the right thing the way we pulled out of Afghanistan? Or could there been another way?
[00:22:25] AO: I trust that our leaders made the very best decisions with the information that they had.
[00:22:29] KM: Well, that brings me to another question. How many presidents have you served under?
[00:22:34] AO: Oh, good question. I have to think about that one and count them up, because I commissioned in 2001.
[00:22:43] KM: Clinton was out.
[00:22:45] AO: One, two, three, four.
[00:22:47] GM: 2001 is Bush. So, Bush, Obama, Trump, Biden?
[00:22:52] AO: Yes, four.
[00:22:53] GM: Yeah. There you go.
[00:22:56] KM: So I’ve actually interviewed some other military people. And so I’ve asked them this question before. How do you serve when you might not agree with the war, the mission, or even like the Commander-in-Chief at the time? That's the part that would always get to me in your career.
[00:23:13] AO: Yeah. That's a great question. So at the end of the day, I took an oath, and the oath is to the constitution. It's not to the president. It's through the constitution of the United States. And so at the end of the day, if I’m challenged or I’m struggling with something, then I just refer back to my oath. And that's what keeps me focused and on purpose, because I will support then the constitution of the United States. That's what I took my oath to.
[00:23:40] KM: Through research, it has been found that one's memory is really enhanced when one's adrenaline is pumping. And hence, traumatic experiences are really hard to get rid of and create PTSD and stuff like that. And I’m sure your adrenaline gland has been wide open a lot when you're flying. Is there anything special that sticks out in your memory, which I already know what it is, it was the Baghdad on Christmas eve. You've already told me. But is there anything that you wish you could have done different?
[00:24:07] AO: Oh, there's a lot of things I wish I could have done differently. We were just talking about this the other day in the office. I honestly can't think of a single day in my life where I’ve done everything right. I fail all the time. I do. And I think if somebody were to tell me that they're perfect and they've never failed or they don't make mistakes, then I don't know that I could trust that person, because we all make mistakes. It's just part of being a human being.
And you know what? My daughter, she actually said this to me one day. She was quite young at the time, which kind of surprised me. But she said, "You know, mom? If we are not making mistakes, then we probably aren't pushing ourselves. We're probably not learning." I said, "Yes. Yes, you keep that mindset, because that's what's going to help you get better and make yourself a better human being every single day of your life."
[00:24:58] KM: And learn about forgiving yourself.
[00:24:59] AO: Absolutely.
[00:25:00] KM: which is paralyzing if you can't learn to forgive yourself.
[00:25:02] AO: Absolutely.
[00:25:03] KM: Alright. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with Colonel Angela Ochoa, the highest commander at the Little Rock Air Force Base. Still to come, Little Rock Air Force Base’s strengths, weaknesses, and how and why should someone join the military. What you could get out of it if you joined. More to come after the break.
[00:25:20] ANNOUNCER: We've got great news from the Dreamland Ballroom. Dancing into Dreamland is back for the 11th year. That's right. 11th annual Dancing into Dreamland happens on February 12th, 2022. They're changing up the formula a bit with a Valentine's gala right there in the Dreamland Ballroom. Don't worry, all the things you love about the longstanding fundraiser are still in the mix, a real night of revelry in the centenarian structure culminating around a friendly dance competition, food, drink, a silent auction. Attendees will have the pleasure of viewing several spectacular dances. And varying genres will fill the night. You'll be able to vote for your favorites via text. It's a very fun evening, Dancing into Dreamland. And not the least important thing is it's a terrific fundraiser for this extraordinary historic venue. A panel of celebrity judges will pick their favorite act, and they'll be awarded a special cash prize. Dancing into Dreamland is back, February 2022.
[00:26:17] KM: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Colonel Angela Ochoa, the highest commander at the Little Rock Air Force Base, and history maker, as being first woman to hold that position.
Before the break, we talked about Angela’s life as a young woman, going to college, joining the Air Force, learning to fly missions. She’s flown on four, five missions. We even talked about her favorite mission. So if you did miss that, you should go back and listen. And now we’re going to talk about her position at the Little Rock Air Force Base.
In accepting your new position at the 19th Airlift Wing, commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, you had moved to Jacksonville, Arkansas, home of Herc nation for the Hercules. What is the weight of the C-130 with cargo and without? Because I just see those big things up there, and I just think, "How in the world is that thing flying?"
[00:27:06] AO: Right. So the weight changes depending on what you're carrying and how much fuel you have.
[00:27:12] KM: Yes. What's the max?
[00:27:13] AO: Well then, I’ll tell you the max I’ve ever landed was 164,000 pounds.
[00:27:18] KM: Is it like standing on the brakes going [inaudible 00:27:20]?
[00:27:21] AO: Yeah, kind of. Can be. Yes. The lightest I’ve ever landed is about 95,000 pounds, and anywhere in between, you can go. So it just kind of depends on your fuel load and what you're carrying.
[00:27:33] KM: And how long the runway is.
[00:27:35] AO: That's absolutely true.
[00:27:37] KM: I bet. So we talked about how long the airstrips are. And you said this mammoth plane does not have to have a really long, long one.
[00:27:45] AO: No. It does not.
[00:27:46] KM: Are there only a few – So it can land in a lot of bases. One of my questions was going to be how many bases can the C-130 land. It can land a lot of places.
[00:27:55] AO: Absolutely. Absolutely.
[00:27:56] KM: For those that don't know the C, because I didn't know this until a few years ago. The C stands for cargo.
[00:28:00] AO: Yes.
[00:28:01] KM: And the B stands for bomber. I didn't know that. My dad was in a B-52. I never knew what B-52 meant. Are there other designations for planes?
[00:28:12] AO: Yeah. Usually we have the F for fighter and T for trainer. So we have a couple different designators.
[00:28:17] KM: Since these planes are not bombers, have any of them ever been shot down?
[00:28:23] AO: I’m sure. I can't think of any off top my head in recent history.
[00:28:29] KM: So none of the planes at your Air Force Base.
[00:28:30] AO: No.
[00:28:33] KM: That's nice.
[00:28:34] AO: Yes. I like it when the planes stay in the air.
[00:28:38] KM: Did they ever crash?
[00:28:40] AO: Unfortunately, yes. We have had some accidents in the C-130.
[00:28:43] KM: Is it landing?
[00:28:44] AO: It can occur in all different phases of flight. So, yes.
[00:28:48] KM: So how many personnel man the plane? And how long do they have to train?
[00:28:52] AO: So it depends on what the mission is. And it depends on how long they're going to be flying. But a typical crew in a C-130J, which is what the 19th Airlift Wing flies is a four-person crew.
[00:29:05] KM: Oh, that's not very many.
[00:29:07] AO: No, it's not. Two pilots up front. Two load masters in the back. And training-wise, it depends on what they're training for. But I would say a typical person from the time that they enter until the time that they show up at their unit fully ready to go is probably about two years. Could be a little bit more than that.
[00:29:27] KM: Oh, no wonder you feel confident flying with these people. That's a lot of time to train. I'm so glad you didn't say three months, because I was like, "Oh!" Oh, that is good. And I like what you call the guys in the back, load masters.
[00:29:44] AO: Yes.
[00:29:45] KM: I need a load master at my house for the dishwasher.
[00:29:50] GM: That's what dad is. Isn't he?
[00:29:51] KM: Yeah, I think so. I got to tell people who are listening to the podcast. Can I just tell everybody, if you're on YouTube, you can see it. But Angela, you look like the girl next door. You do. Doesn't she? But I also said earlier you could probably kill me with your little finger. So is this an asset? Or is it sometimes makes it hard for people to take you seriously?
[00:30:16] AO: I’m not quite sure how to answer that. But I’m a big believer that no matter who you are, you show up. You put your best foot forward. You do the best you can every single day. And then hopefully you get judged based on your merits and the results of your effort. And your look shouldn't matter. It really shouldn't.
[00:30:35] KM: I like that answer. I do think sometimes you are not taking this seriously. And then once you start talking, once you start acting, all that kind of disappears. If you can get the job done, everybody's fine to work with you.
Before accepting your current position, you were the Vice Wing Commander at the Scott Air Force Base. For those thinking of a military career, talk about what went into you being chosen as colonel of the Little Rock Air Force Base and how you made the decision to move to Jacksonville, Arkansas, a neighboring city of Little Rock?
[00:31:07] AO: Yeah. I would say that the selection process is absolutely very challenging and competitive. And I feel that it was an honor to be selected to be the installation commander at Little Rock. When my boss called me and said, "Hey, we want you to go to Little Rock Air Force Base." The only answer I could think of was, "Okay, sir. When? And I’m ready to go now." He said, "Why don't go home and talk with your husband?" I said, "Okay. But we're ready. Let's go."
[00:31:36] KM: You didn't have to interview for the job?
[00:31:39] AO: We have a very long process that we go through. Our records are screened and our records meet a board. There is a screening process that goes through for selection. So there is an interview. But I would say that for the most part, my whole career has been an interview. We are just constantly working and being looked at and evaluated. And I was just fortunate enough to be selected.
[00:32:06] KM: I’ve never heard anybody say that. But your whole life is an interview. I heard somebody say that he hired a guy for a job he was looking for because he was looking out the window, and the guy was walking down the street, and he stopped and picked up a piece of trash and threw it in the trash can. And he was the mayor of North Little Rock. And he said, "I got up, and I went outside and I said, "Do you need a job, son? Because I’m going to find you one." Anybody that picks up trash on the street doesn't just walk by and look at it is somebody I want working for me. I mean, who would think that was an interview for a job?
[00:32:41] AO: You never know.
[00:32:40] KM: You never know. You just don't walk back past things that need to be done.
[00:32:45] AO: That's right.
[00:32:45] KM: How many times have you been promoted and moved your family?
[00:32:49] AO: Well, when I commissioned, I was a second lieutenant, and that was back in 2001. And so promoted five times after that to the rank of colonel. And how many times have I moved my family? I’d have to count them all up. But we've lived in quite a few houses over time. We started out, like I mentioned, in Colorado. My husband and I moved from there to Laughlin Air Force Base for training. We finished our training at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi Texas. And that's where both my husband and I received our pilot wings. Our first operational assignment was out of Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. And it was awesome.
[00:33:31] KM: I bet.
[00:33:32] AO: And then we moved here to Little Rock for the first time. This is actually our third assignment here at Little Rock Air Force Base.
[00:33:38] KM: Because you started here first.
[00:33:41] AO: Well, because we were assigned here. As our second operational assignment, we were assigned here.
[00:33:46] KM: Where did you first start flying the C-130?
[00:33:49] AO: We came here through training. And that was about a three and a half month training period that we came through on our way up to Alaska. So, yes. We've been here quite a few times.
[00:33:59] KM: So you knew Little Rock.
[00:33:59] AO: We knew Little Rock, yeah.
[00:34:01] KM: You were fine with it.
[00:34:01] AO: Yep. And then we came here. And then after that, we went out to Washington, DC. And I was stationed at the Pentagon and also had an opportunity to go to school at Georgetown and get a master's degree there. And we came back to Little rock. And then from Little Rock, we went up to Scott Air Force Base. And then now we're back at Little Rock again.
[00:34:18] KM: Do you have to have a master's degree to continue to get promoted in the Air Force?
[00:34:23] AO: To the rank of colonel, yes.
[00:34:26] KM: So do your daughters hate you for moving them around all the time?
[00:34:28] AO: No. Actually, my daughters are really into joining the Air Force.
[00:34:33] KM: Are they going to be? Are they're going to be in the Air Force?
[00:34:35] AO: Maybe. Maybe. One of my daughters said that she's interested. She wants to fly airplanes. And I said, "That's great. If that's what you want to do, I support you. If not, then I support you as well. There's no pressure from mom. No pressure from mom."
[00:34:49] KM: We're going to talk about your leadership philosophy. I read that in your first address to the wing, you thanked the men and women of the 19th Air Wing for their tireless efforts. And you said to them, "These last 16 months have tried not only this base, not only our nation, but the entire world as we have fought through a global pandemic." And went on to say, "In spite of this, Herc nation has been constantly on the go supporting the warfighter needs and accelerating change." And you vowed to not be resting on its hills for the next fight. What is the next fight? And what changes are you working on?
[00:35:29] AO: The next fight. So we are shifting our focus to pacing challenges. What we've been doing for the last 20 years has been fighting a war in a very permissive environment that allows us to have freedom of movement, wherever we want to go, whenever we want to go there. We're not convinced that that's necessarily going to be the future of warfare.
[00:35:49] KM: What do you mean?
[00:35:50] AO: Airspace is going to become owned more by other people?
[00:35:55] AO: Not necessarily owned more, but there could be adversaries out there that maybe want to keep us from going there and going into their airspace.
[00:36:03] KM: Will it be drones?
[00:36:05] AO: I don't know. I think the future fight will be one that will push us and challenge us in ways that we haven't seen probably since our grand – At least my grandfathers in World War II.
[00:36:15] KM: Yeah. I’m scared of robots too. They don't have anything to lose. Space Force is a division now. Is no longer in the Air Force. Is no longer in the Air Force. And they've created its own Space Force.
[00:36:30] AO: We do have a Space Force. Together, the Space Force and the Air Force, are under the Department of the Air Force.
[00:36:36] KM: Oh, they are? I thought they separated them completely.
[00:36:39] AO: We are a separate force now, and that's a great thing for the Space Force. It is wonderful, and we're really proud of them. They just celebrated their second birthday.
[00:36:47] KM: We love selling their flags.
[00:36:48] AO: Yes.
[00:36:49] KM: They've got their own flag. It's a nice looking one too. We were like, "Oh, another flag to sell. I like that." Now when they have to buy a whole military set, we get six instead of – Wait. Sell for six, instead of five. But yeah, we sell a lot of Space Force flags.
[00:37:02] AO: Wonderful.
[00:37:04] KM: I know. Isn't that interesting? And it makes sense.
[00:37:06] AO: It does. It really does when you think about space being a new domain. And it is a future domain that we're going to have to – It will be contested. Space and cyberspace will be very much the way of the future fight.
[00:37:19] KM: Do you follow Elon Musk?
[00:37:20] GM: Mom's obsessed.
[00:37:22] KM: I am obsessed with Elon Musk and all the stuff he does. That's why I was like, "You do too. We all do. We're all watching him all the time.
[00:37:28] GM: He's firing things into space all the time. It's kind of interesting.
[00:37:31] KM: Yeah, what about space junk? I’m really out of your area now, aren't I?
[00:37:34] AO: You are out of my area. But that's okay.
[00:37:36] KM: I'm sorry. All right. We're coming back around. We're coming back around. This is your area. Talk about Little Rock Air Force Base's transition to a newer version of the C-130J aircraft. You said we need to make sure that we fully complete that transition and that our air crew and our maintainers are ready to execute.
[00:37:53] AO: That's right.
[00:37:53] KM: That's your biggest thing right now?
[00:37:54] AO: It is a big focus of us, because we are the first out of the shoot to do a block upgrade. So what it is we're just up upgrading some avionics equipment, some communications equipment, which will help us be able to manage our mission a little bit better as we're flying our aircraft. It's a pretty big change, pretty big lift. And we are developing the tactics and techniques and procedures as we're learning how to fly this new upgrade. And so it's been fun. It's been a challenge. But our airmen are getting after it and making it happen every day.
[00:38:30] KM: Are they ready?
[00:38:31] AO: Yes, they will be ready.
[00:38:33] KM: When will that be? When have you given them the day that they need to be?
[00:38:37] AO: Well, we have a long program of record that we're following through right now. And so I’m hopeful that by the time that I leave we'll be fully converted.
[00:38:46] KM: When are you leaving?
[00:38:48] AO: Well, that's to be determined, right?
[00:38:49] KM: Oh! I thought maybe that they gave these promotions in like contracts, like a football coach or something. Your contract's only for three years or something. They don't do that.
[00:39:02] AO: Well, typically different positions are limited in scope in nature. And I would say that I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to remain as a commander for the next year and a half to two years.
[00:39:15] KM: How long was the last guy that went to Europe?
[00:39:18] AO: He was there for two years.
[00:39:19] KM: What was his name?
[00:39:21] AO: Colonel John Shetty.
[00:39:21] KM: Yeah. So he was only there two years?
[00:39:23] AO: Yes.
[00:39:24] KM: Well you're almost at that mark, aren't you?
[00:39:27] AO: Six months.
[00:39:28] KM: Oh, has it been that short? Oh, you've done a lot.
[00:39:31] AO: Well, thank you.
[00:39:31] GM: Time is an illusion in 2020 and 2021.
[00:39:34] KM: It really is. It really is. I learned about you about six months ago, but I thought you had been here for a while. All right now we're really going to talk about your leadership. Talking about your base, these are some quotes I found that you said, and I’m going to read them all, "I am very much interested in building courageous leaders. We're going to continue to build mobility warriors." I love. "That that is what we're called to do to make sure that we're bold and ready to take action." You also said, "Diversity is a national warfighting imperative. It is mission-critical that we have diverse teams, because at the end of the day, diverse teams make better decisions, and they're winning teams." Well said.
You said, "The base is in good shape, but we do need to re-look at our mission, vision and priorities and then figure out where we want to do in the next two years." You said, "The key to doing it all is being present, delegating and asking for help and start at an active listening campaign." Did I hit them all?
[00:40:39] AO: I think so.
[00:40:41] KM: Do you have three things that you really think are – Like that are your three points you really want to hit?
[00:40:51] AO: As far as the base and where we're going?
[00:40:54] KM: And your goals. Three goals.
[00:40:56] AO: Three goals. One, I mean, I kind of laid it out there. One of them is uh building courageous leaders. We have got to focus on developing our airmen, and that is step number one, is that airmen development. And that includes our families. It's not just about the airmen that are serving. It's about taking care of our families as well, because they serve too. It is a family business. And so we have to develop them to be courageous leaders. We have to develop our families to be strong and resilient. And if we do that, I have no doubt that we're going to succeed. It's going to be great.
The other thing that we're doing is we're focusing on our mission. Obviously, we talked about the aircraft. But some of them too is just preparing ourselves to shift our mindset towards that future fight, which is a pacing challenge, and near pure competitor. So that is a big focus that we are working on right now, is getting ready for that next fight.
And then lastly, we're working on culture. How do we make sure that little rock air force base has a thriving culture where everybody feels included? Everybody feels valued and feels that they belong and can perform at their very best?
[00:42:02] KM: I love what you said. Every day here, I feel like I’m living my calling, and there's nothing better than feeling like you're doing what you're supposed to do and what you've been called to do. And that leads me into your job description. And this is a summation, because I’ve not really seen your job description. But I read this was kind of what it is. As installation commander, you are responsible for organizing training and equipping the personnel who operate, maintain and sustain more than 62 C-130 aircraft that are used around the world to enable support for combat, contingency plans, and humanitarian relief. You are also accountable for ensuring the readiness and well-being of more than ten thousand personnel and families at Little Rock Air Force Base. That's a big job.
[00:42:50] AO: Yes.
[00:42:51] KM: Out of all your duties, what's your favorite? I guess it's flying.
[00:42:55] AO: Well –
[00:42:56] KM: That's not really a duty for you anymore though.
[00:42:59] AO: I do get to fly. I actually got to fly yesterday. It was amazing. I love flying. But actually what um what I love even more is getting to help people. And I can't think of a single day that I have been in this position where I haven't been able to help somebody. So every night, when I go home, I try to think, "What could I have done better today? And who did I help today?" And sometimes you don't always realize the people you help. Sometimes there's no gratitude. And that's okay. But I try to remind myself that every day, as long as we're getting after that, trying to figure out ways that we can help other people and I can help my airmen and help my families, then then they're the ones getting [inaudible 00:43:39].
[00:43:40] KM: Do you write thank you notes?
[00:43:41] AO: Absolutely.
[00:43:42] KM: I think all successful people write thank you notes. At the Clinton School over there, one of the things they teach in that help – What is that school?
[00:43:55] GM: School of social work.
[00:43:56] KM: Thank you. School of Social Work. Is they write five thank you notes every day, even if it's to the guy who fixed your cable TV. Thank you for coming and fixing my cable TV. That it creates this gratitude for your life. It's really almost more for you. Reminds you of why of all that you have.
[00:44:11] AO: Right.
[00:44:13] KM: You said this about flying. It's a lot of fun. Getting to fly low levels in Arkansas, see the beautiful scenery, is joyous. And the best part, when I get to go out on the line, prepare for a mission, go execute a mission and then come back and debrief with the team.
[00:44:30] AO: That's right.
[00:44:32] KM: It's a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll conclude our conversation with Colonel Angela Ochoa, the highest commander at the Little Rock Air Force Base. Still to come, how and why you should look at military life, after the break.
[00:44:45] ANNOUNCER: Well, it's a brand New Year, and you should make a brand-new consideration of some custom artwork on street pole banners, flags, pennants, banners, tradeshow displays. Kirk from Flag and Banner, shows you a little bit of how the experts at Flag and Banner can direct your decision about custom work.
[00:45:07] K: First thing you want to consider is, is this flag for indoor use or outdoor use? Secondly, you want to decide if you want the typical single reverse flag or the double-sided. Single reverse means you'll see everything on both sides of the flag, but the backside will be reversed as a mirrored image. Where double-sided is the same. It's actually two flags made and then sowed back to back with a liner in between. So they will look and read correctly on both sides.
[00:45:52] ANNOUNCER: Those are the kinds of things that professionals will think of to ask you. So your finished product is perfect. And if you mention an ad you got in your Flag and Banner email recently, you can get $125 off your custom artwork free. Flagandbanner.com, sign up for those newsletters. If you don't already, get them. They're valuable. And happy New Year.
[00:46:13] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with Colonel Angela Ochoa, the highest commander at the Little Rock Air Force Base, and history maker, as being the first woman to hold that position.
Before the break, we talked about Little Rock Air Force Base. We talked about Ochoa's life in the military. We talked about mission she's been on. We talked about the future of the Little Rock Air Force Base. And now, real quick, before she has to go, because she's a very busy woman, we're goint to ask about why you think people should join the military.
[00:46:48] AO: Well, first of all, I think that if you want to be a part of a team that is a successful team and is doing some amazing work in support of our nation and our people, then we're the team you want to be on. We're a winning team. We have a commitment to each other. We have a commitment to our families. And at the end of the day, we provide our nation's defense. And I can't think of a better calling that anybody could have than joining our team and being a part of that success.
[00:47:18] KM: When I think about why I join in the military, I think about the life skills they teach you.
[00:47:23] AO: Absolutely.
[00:47:24] KM: I mean, most parents don't teach the life skills that they teach in the military. I mean, get up, get dressed, make your bed. I saw a general one time say, "Every day, get up and make your bed no matter what, because you start off the day doing something."
[00:47:40] AO: I couldn't agree even more. And I tell my daughters the same thing now. They say, "Mom! Why do I have to make my bed?" I said, "Because, at the end of the day when you come home, you know that you made your bed, and you can look at it and it's going to make you feel good." It makes me feel good when I come home and I see my nice neatly made bed.
[00:47:56] KM: And you start off with a successful – The minute you walk out of your room, you've done something that day positive. And the benefits of course. The security. And I had never thought about the team spirit that goes with it. But everybody wants to belong, and that's good. And we all need discipline. Humans are flawed in the fact that we all need a little bit of discipline to keep us kind of going there, because we are naturally flawed. And when you're given the skills on how to stay disciplined and be disciplined, I just think that that's something that everybody could use.
Do you think – In fact, I’ve talked with other people on here about should all high school graduates be required to serve two years even if it's just in a humanitarian weight, with the homeless in the community or something?
[00:48:44] AO: So we talked earlier today about the way I was raised. I was raised surrounded on faith and service. So I do believe that just being a good human being is about serving each other. So do I think people should serve other people? Absolutely. How you choose to do that, whether it's volunteering in your local community, or volunteering, or running for office, or joining the military, that's a personal choice. But, absolutely. I think that human beings, we're called to serve each other. We're called to connect to each other. And the best way that we can make our world better is by helping each other.
[00:49:21] KM: So should they be required to join a local service group? That even if it's not going to see combat, but that gap year between high school and college, just you kind of have to go and do these specific things to learn about that, to learn the value of that? I kind of think we should.
[00:49:40] AO: Do you think we should?
[00:49:42] KM: Because I hire people all the time at Arkansas Flag and Banner, and I parent them. They came out of high school, and I’m parenting them. And I’m like, "Well, maybe we should offer that in a way that's more broad than just me." There's not a million mes out there that want to parent people.
What's next for you in the country? When are you going to retire?
[00:49:42] AO: When am I going to retire? My husband and I, we talk about this all the time. We're not done serving. I don't know what's next. But we're not done. We really feel called and led to continue in military service. Our family is in a great spot. My kids enjoy serving as well. Like I said, it's a family business. I don't know what the future holds. But I I’m not ready to stop serving yet.
[00:50:32] KM: Is there a limit on how long you can serve in the military?
[00:50:34] AO: There is, and it depends on what rank you hold and what positions you're in. And there's waivers for everything. But I still have time and I still have gas left in the tank.
[00:50:46] KM: That's nice. I have a gift for you. It's got some Arkansas momentous in it. It's a flag set desk. It's our Arkansas president. A small book about Arkansas president and an ornament for your Christmas tree.
[00:50:57] AO: Oh. Well, thank you.
[00:50:59] KM: You're very much.
[00:51:00] AO: I really appreciate you. And I appreciate this honor just to be able to talk with you today. It's been wonderful.
[00:51:04] KM: You're a great person. I really appreciate you coming, because I know how busy you are. I mean, you got a full plate.
I want to say, in closing, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening, and that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence, or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy, and I’ll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[00:51:30] GM: You've been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio and choose today's guest. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Subscribe to podcasts wherever you like to listen.
Kerry's goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.