A noncommissioned officer assigned to the 65th Air Base Squadron at Lajes Field, Portugal, was recognized as Airlifter of the Week, April 8, for strong leadership and training to support Agile Combat Employment.
Tech. Sgt. Alex M. Sotelo, 65th ABS transient alert section chief, and his team of 10 aircraft maintainers provided critical ground maintenance support to multiple aircraft, including B-2 Spirit stealth bombers during a recent Bomber Task Force deployment.
“You’ve been named the Airlifter of the Week for your great work on the Bomber Task Force, all the great things you do on the flight line, and just making things happen,” said Brig. Gen. Josh Olson, 86th Airlift Wing commander, to Sotelo. “It’s no small feat. I greatly appreciate all that you do for the 86th and the 65th, and we’re honored to highlight your great works.”
Lajes is home to the 65th Air Base Group, one of the 86th AW’s geographically separated units, and plays a vital role in combat operations by serving as a trans-Atlantic bridge to enable the expeditionary movement of war fighters, warplanes and global communications to combatant commanders and supporting Joint, Coalition and NATO operations.
Sotelo’s efforts at Lajes enabled the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to exercise hot-pit refueling procedures and engage in fifth generation fighter integration and foreign deterrence operations in the Arctic Region.
“We made sure they were taken care of,” Sotelo said. “We supported them and their maintenance crew to get the gas to keep going and get out of here safely, quickly and efficiently.”
In addition to transient alert duties, Sotelo coordinated with the local 721st Aerial Port Squadron detachment to obtain forklift and aircraft stair training for his maintainers to fulfill ACE initiatives.
“It was crazy how fast it got utilized,” Sotelo said. “A lot of us that were just trained, including myself, were out there within a couple weeks, taking care of a C-5 (Super Galaxy aircraft) to get them down-loaded and get the equipment for the B-2s taken care of.”
As multi-capable Airmen, the short-notice support Sotelo and his team were able to provide saved the APS overtime costs and ensured no delays in the BTF mission.
In addition to leading the transient alert section and securing cross-training to support the multi-capable Airman concept, Sotelo served as the 65th Air Base Group’s project officer for the 86th AW’s virtual annual award ceremony.
“We had to plan it around COVID, making sure everyone was socially distanced within our facility, and we tackled the challenge,” Sotelo said. “My small team of four helped quite a bit and ensured that everyone was not just safe from COVID, but had a good time and got to enjoy the ceremony.”
Outside of work, Sotelo, a Sterling, Illinois, native, enjoys fishing, biking, gaming and watching the ocean from his balcony while sipping coffee. Phone calls to his wife and two sons are also an everyday occurrence, since Sotelo is at Lajes unaccompanied.
While leadership recognized Sotelo for his outstanding dedication to the job and support of the 86th AW’s reputation for ready and professional airlift, he made a point to recognize that it was a team effort.
“The real MVPs are my team,” Sotelo said. “Whatever I ask them to do, they get it done. They’re the ones that lead the way.”