Massachusetts Airman always wondered how things worked

  • Published
  • By By Timothy Sandland

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. – As a child living in Hong Kong, young Wing Ng had an interest in how things worked.

This became evident when his father came home with a toy airplane as a gift. "I think at that time, he probably spent a day's worth of salary on it," said Ng. "The next day he came back and it was all taken apart. 'Why did you break it? Why did you take it apart?' he asked me. I said, 'I don't know – I wanted to see how it worked.' So I think later down the road I kind of tied it together."

Eventually the Ng family found their way to the United States. "Most of my childhood was spent living in Boston." said Ng. "I came over with a British passport and got my citizenship as soon as I turned 18 – I raised my hand and said 'yes, I'll be a citizen.'"

When he turned 17, Ng committed to the Air Force before graduating high school through the Delayed Enlistment Program. "I didn't really think I wanted to go back to school right after high school – as a young kid back then I kind of wanted to do something else. Something about the Air Force fascinated me, and I (came) to realize some time later that the Air Force was my calling." 

While in the Air Force, Ng was stationed at Kadena AB in Okinawa as an Aircraft Maintenance Mechanic working on the F-15 Eagle. Recounting one of his favorite experiences, he said, "I actually got to re-enlist in the back seat of an F-15 in flight – that was a pretty good thing."

Ng's second assignment was even more exciting. As a crew chief at the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, Cali., he worked on the T-38 Talon and the A-37 Dragonfly. "I was able to get a lot of air time with cross-country flying in the back seat of T-38s."

While stationed at Edwards, Ng won the first-ever Air 6510th Maintenance and Supply Group Maintainer of the Year Award.

At the end of his Air Force commitment, Ng had a choice to make, and wanted to continue to pay back the country that had provided him with so much. "After seven years of active duty it was time to stay on active duty or do something else – I still wanted to serve and I found the Guard to be a good way to do that – and I'd be home." In 1987 he made the transition to the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

"A majority of my career was spent as an aircraft maintenance mechanic. I got here just as they were getting rid of the F-106s and converting to F-15s, which was another reason why I wanted to come back here – I had that background and experience."

Shortly after joining the 102nd, Ng was able to get a full-time position as a crew chief and worked his way up to maintenance supervisor. During his time as a crew chief, Ng would be involved in an event with global implications.

Early on a Tuesday morning in September of 2001, the world changed.

"I was on alert with my airplane at the alert shelters. In the morning, went out just like any other time – the alert siren went off so we had to get them out of the chocks as quickly as possible," he said.

"We got the airplanes out of the alert barn and into the air and I came back and saw the TV and thought 'oh boy, it's going to be a long day – I know exactly what happened and where our planes are going'."

"I started making phone calls – called my wife and said 'hey, I'm probably going to be here a long time today, so won't be able to pick up the kids from school. You're going to have to handle it until I get back to you,' Which she had no problem with."

Ng, along with his fellow Airmen, would rise to the challenge of a 24-7 combat air patrol that would last for months.

With the years of service that Ng has, it's not uncommon to have held a number of positions. "The BRAC happened and the wing changed missions to Intelligence." Ng explained. "I went back to tech school as a crusty old senior master sergeant and learned my craft to become an intel journeyman and eventually, operations superintendent – I did that for a couple of years."

After several years in the Intelligence field, Ng accepted an opportunity to join the wing staff and two new positions – working in the Inspector General's Office and as the wing's human resources advisor.

"In the Inspector General's Office, I play a role as the Wing Inspection Program manager," said Ng. "I do a little bit of everything. I make sure all of the inspections get done, schedule inspections, produce the reports and make sure we're ready for any higher-headquarters inspections. We make sure everyone is doing what they're supposed to, and highlighting or identifying what needs to be done better."

"It's a different IG now – not the 'black hats' as we used to call them who used to come here and point out your faults – that's not the case anymore." The new Air Force inspection system is more of a continuous inspection routine. "You're constantly updating your self-assessments – so it's not the last-minute type of deal."

As the wing's Human Resource Advisor, Ng is responsible for facilitating a culture of diversity and inclusion. 

"I got in at a good time, where the Guard was looking for a change of direction for the HRA position. I got to be part of that piece – to make a new program work. I had a hand in developing the new program."

During a visit to the ANGRC for training, Ng's IG background was noticed. "They needed help adding HRA into the Air Force Inspection System so I was asked for assistance – at first with drafting an MICT Communicator, then helping to write a guidance memorandum to the existing ANG Instruction and eventually drafting a whole new ANGI." Over the last year, Ng has easily spent around six weeks at ANGRC as a key contributor in revamping the ANG's HRA program.

Ng was rewarded for his efforts with being selected as the 2019 recipient of the Air National Guard's Human Resource Advisor of the Year award.

"Way back in the beginning, when the word 'diversity' was mentioned, everybody kind of cringed and said, 'oh, here we go' – it's not like that anymore. Diversity is openly discussed now. It's so much more now than just the numbers and percentages. It's focused on inclusion."

"The bottom line is diversity and inclusion go hand in hand – we can't do one without the other. Checking the boxes doesn't mean you're making everyone feel inclusive. If you have the diversity without the inclusion, what good is that?"

On starting two new jobs at the same time Ng said, "It was definitely a challenge – both were new positions for me and things I had never done before – I think the key thing there is to balance your time – if I had down time in the IG shop, I would do some HRA stuff and vice versa. Also, a big part of that is having a supervisor that understands and allows you time to do the other things. When I went to ANGRC for HRA duties, I'd always stop by the ANG Inspector General Office and say hello and see if I could do any work while I was down there. Yes, it's two jobs but you blend them into one – it's just a good balance of time."

Ng is in the process of retiring from his full-time position at the wing, but he plans to remain as a traditional Guard member for the foreseeable future.

"I'm coming up on 39 years of federal service," and as for passing the torch, Ng added, "I'll be the bridge for the next HRA."