by Senior Airman Joan King
3rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
9/26/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- There are several traits in leadership Airmen aspire to in hopes of one day becoming role models themselves.
One such trait is the ability to live by example, while living a life that reflects all the core values emphasized by the Air Force.
Not only is diligent work ethic sought after, but Airmen strive to remain well-rounded by participating in regular volunteer work. With requirements such as these, one might be amazed to find anyone who manages to fit the mold.
However, one Airman at the 3rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron blows the rest out of the water.
After spending long hours performing physically laborious tasks in harsh Alaska weather conditions, you would think Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Apeland has a lot to complain about.
But that's where you would be wrong. Through rain or shine, he can still be seen with a smile on his face.
A weapons loader for the 525th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, 3rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Apeland is part of a three-man weapons team that works together in loading the F-22 Raptor with ammunition. His responsibilities include tool accountability and prepping all suspension equipment for loading.
But a sunny disposition isn't the only distinguishing factor indicative of his character. Currently Airman Apeland and his wife are sending a monthly financial contribution to a family friend committed to raising awareness of God and international human trafficking through research and humanitarian outreach in Kenya.
In cases such as these, missionaries fully depend on monetary donations such as ones from the Apelands to sustain their living expenses. support and encouragement by remaining in close contact.
When it comes to role models, Airman Apeland has spent the majority of his childhood looking up to two.
After eight years of missionary work in County Meath, Ireland, he and his parents, Michael and Dorothy Apeland, know a thing or two about "service before self."
Living with an Irish family kind enough to take them in, the Apelands frequented the 54-acre grounds that housed Drewstown House Christian Center where most of their volunteer work took place.
Working with troubled teens, the Apelands focused on rehabilitating teens struggling with feelings of helplessness and loneliness.
"When working with people that are going through hardships such as these, you have to be a patient and gentle leader to bring them back to a place where they can fully lead their own lives without relapsing into self-destructiveness," he said.
Explaining how his life in Ireland affected his Air Force career, Airman Apeland can attest to how his prior learned skills easily translate.
"Patience, understanding and humility, although frequently forgotten, are crucial parts of leadership," he said. "You must learn to follow before you learn to lead."
Aside from his parents, Airman Apeland said he has positive influences in all areas of his life. His wife, also a former "missionary kid," has her own story to tell.
Amanda Apeland spent her fair share of missionary work in Higashi-Kurume, Japan, with her parents, Ralph and Joan Justiniano, who have now been living in Japan for nearly 18 years.
To understand the impact of her family's work in Higashi-Kurume, one must gain insight into the culture; relationships between father and children are mostly nonexistent due to their familial roles as "salarymen," which involves long hours of employment, six days a week.
When fathers are attempting to salvage these relationships, the Justinianos reach out to aid them in reversing the damage from their absence.
Ralph Justiniano currently serves as a liaison between Samaritan's Purse relief efforts and the national Christian Relief Assistance Support Hope organization in response to Japan's earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
He also teaches seminars in central and far East Asia.
The seminars focus on leadership, cross-cultural communication and outreach with emphasis on the idea that "people won't care about what you know until they know you care."
Joan Justianiano directs dramatic productions and teaches English to ladies' groups who enjoy referencing the Bible and Reader's Digests in order to get comfortable reading English.
Looking back at the work their parents have accomplished overseas, the Apelands view it as an example they hope to set for their own child in the future.
Amanda Apeland summed up what she grew up believing.
"...Reaching out to [people] where they are, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually and otherwise - that touch may be in the form of providing a place to stay, financial resources, investment of time, lending a shoulder or ear, or merely as simple prayer on their behalf," she said.
Apeland's beliefs about life happen to coincide with Air Force standards in that relationships between people are equally as important as leading a life of virtue. He points out the common thread between his core beliefs and the Air Force's.
"The Bible teaches about honor, respect, integrity, selflessness, protecting those weaker than you, being all you can be and leading when needed...[These are] necessary when working with other people in a team effort," he said.
Audrey Hepburn once said, "Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it's at the end
of your arm; as you get older, remember you have another hand: the first is to help yourself, the second is to help others."
It's easy to be intimidated during times of doubt when we question our own capabilities, but with Airmen such as Apeland, it's hard not to get inspired.