Paying it forward

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Courtney Richardson
  • 944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

What drives a person from flying reconnaissance missions to sitting behind a desk answering questions? For one Airman it was an unfulfilled passion.

Master Sgt. Romeo Farinacci, 944th Airman & Family Readiness Center non-commissioned officer in charge, joined the Air Force in 1998 initially as an electronic warfare apprentice but when an opportunity came up for him to become an airborne system engineer on an RC-135, Rivet Joint, he took it.

“Once the aircraft took off, electronically it was mine and I loved it for six years,” Farinacci said.

In 2004, Farinacci left active-duty and prepared to join the civilian world, but quickly realized he wasn’t ready.

“I went through the transition assistance program but I was young and didn’t grab enough information to set myself up for the civilian world,” he said. “I thought ‘I got it,’ then I got to the civilian world and immediately thought ‘I don’t got it.'”

Even though Farinacci went through the Transition Assistance Program he couldn’t figure out how to translate any of his military experience to a civilian resume. After a few months of not having any job prospects, he decided to join the Air Force Reserve.

“I thought I could get another career that would be easier to move into the civilian sector and I ended up becoming a 2E2 also known as computer, network, switching, and cryptographic systems Airman,” Farinacci said.

The decision to join the Reserve had a ripple effect in his life.

“Right after I graduated from technical school, I met a career coach who was able to help me nail down my passion,” Farinacci said. “He had me do a career/personality test which, funny enough, still landed me on IT.”

The career coach helped Farinacci figure out what certifications to obtain, what educational track he should follow, and helped him stay on track when he started veering off of the path.

“It was a beautiful moment to realize I went from having nothing and no prospects in 2004, to having knocked out three [Community College of the Air Force associate degrees] and several certs by 2006, and then by 2008 I had more than 40 certifications, my bachelors and master’s degree,” Farinacci said. “The turning point was my dissertation for my doctorate.”

Farinacci’s focus for his research was the Air Force and retention of Airmen. This highlighted his own path, what it took to get where he was at that time and how he didn’t do it alone.

“I worked my way up from driving the Schwan’s ice cream truck, to Circuit City, to working at a movie theatre, and ultimately becoming an IT manager for a manufacturing company,” Farinacci said. “I had a path before me to help get to my goal and it was the career coach who helped me understand my purpose.”

After identifying the needs of Airmen while they were in the service and the struggle that took place when they got out, Farinacci decided to follow a passion he didn’t know how to fulfill at the time; helping people.

“In 2012, I started a career coaching business and became a certified resume writer,” he said. “I wanted to help people get on their feet.”

Farinacci guided service men and women to achieve their post-service career aspirations by providing career research, self-identification, resume writing, LinkedIn website development, and interview skills.

One day Farinacci saw an opportunity within the 944th Fighter Wing’s Airmen & Family Readiness Center that he could not pass up and he immediately requested an interview with the director.

“I sat in on the interview and he was [exceptionally] qualified because of his passion and what he was already doing,” said Master Sgt. Ralph Vandecruze, 944th Force Support Squadron former A&FR superintendent. “He was already in the wheelhouse of giving guidance and assistance to individuals and we had a realization that he would fit great into this career field.”

After being selected for the job, Farinacci packed up his desk in the communications office and walked directly across the hall.

“He has been a great asset to this office from day one, walking in here and hitting the ground running,” Vandecruze said. “Not only can he relate to people with his kind, helping demeanor but his technical knowledge proved beneficial when the Coronavirus hit.”

Farinacci used his IT expertise to set up all the Zoom calls for Airmen who needed assistance but were required to work remotely. He also helped build the training Zoom calls so operations didn’t come to a halt.

“Instead of me just being in the communication’s room doing my professional civilian job and in communications in the military, I can now transition between IT and my real passion, which is people, here in A&FRC,” Farinacci said. “Here we are helping children, spouses, and military members do everything from career coaching, resume writing, to just getting a budget right.”

Farinacci still maintains and continues to expand his knowledge of cybersecurity in the civilian sector. He is a consultant for various large companies, provides speaking engagements on cybersecurity, and is known for his abilities across several universities.

“I love being able to come in here during reserve weekends and help people figure out how to solve their problems so they can focus on the mission and point them in the right direction for their futures,” Farinacci said. “This is my ‘pay it forward.’”