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Airman conquers childhood trials serving in Air National Guard

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Staff Sgt. Adam Chen, right, displays the American Flag with a fellow Airman during a deployment to an undisclosed location in Central Command. Chen is a first generation Asian American who chose serving in the Air National Guard to maximize his education and employment opportunities. (Courtesy photo)

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Air National Guardsman, Senior Airman Adam Chen is an avionics technician assigned to the 108th Wing at Joint Base, McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. The first generation Asian American chose the Air National Guard to further his education and employment opportunities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Donna Jeffries)

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --

“Remember why you’re here” – A mantra heard all too often in basic military training. It is said by instructors to encourage resilience within their trainees.

Yet for Staff Sgt. Adam Chen, an avionics technician of the 108th Maintenance Squadron, such words have pushed him to take advantage of every opportunity the Air National Guard has to offer.

“Growing up, I didn’t see my parents a lot because they worked so much,” Chen explained. “It was a struggle because I had to teach myself cooking [personal finance], you know, how to take care of [myself].”

With a father in sales and mother working in a similar industry, Chen said he learned to be independent to offset some of the pressures and anguish his parents already faced.

“Because of the Chinese Civil War, my mom’s family fled to Taiwan,” said Chen. “But her parents were killed in a communist genocide, so she was raised by her uncle. Later, she came to the United States for a better life. My dad’s older family was [killed] in World War II.”  Much of their past has been left untold or forgotten.

As a result, Chen leaned to rely on himself and friends.

Though his upbringing was tough, Chen said he enjoyed his childhood. “My area was diverse and I was born here, so I [always saw] myself as an American.

When considering going to college he immediately sought a way to pay for it on his own.

“I saw it as an investment,” Chen said. “They worked their whole life – why should I sabotage their retirement.”

After seeing the film “The Perfect Storm”, Chen said he learned of the Guard for the first time and was intrigued. It would allow him to pay for school, work in a field he liked, and have a civilian life, so he joined.

Upon completing BMT, technical school, and on-the-job training, he sought work in his section, beyond his monthly duties, but was unable to obtain a full-time position.

“[So] I took my expertise, and put [my resume] out there,” Chen said. His childhood experiences, coupled with military training, set him on a path to applying what he knew to any challenge.

Throughout his service, Chen’s willingness to adapt and serve has afforded him valuable life experience.

“[The way I grew up] – I am just grateful for these opportunities, so I go for it,” Chen said.

After successfully serving as a civilian foreign liaison to help facilitate the Korean Navy’s participation in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, or RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, Chen was selected for his current position at the Defense Information Systems Agency supporting the Joint Interoperability Test Command in Fort Meade, MD as a government action officer. There he works as a project manager supporting NATO and Non-NATO coalition partners.

In addition, Chen has helped to provide security support to former Vice President Mike Pence for the peaceful transition of power at the 59th Presidential Inauguration. Chen currently serves as an advisory member of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States. And he was accepted as a participant in the NATO Military Reserve Exchange Program to interchange with the Danish military.

Now 24-years-old, Chen credits his parents, childhood experience and military training for the success and resilience he has today. Despite joining the ANG to help pay for college, Chen said, he believes has had honored hos parent’s sacrifices and, at the moment, looks forward to saving his educational benefits for his future wife and children.

“[My parents] are really proud,” Chen said. “I am very grateful and thankful for the military growing me and helping me become the person I am today. They have made the American dream a reality for me.”