AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --
The 379th Air Expeditionary Wing command chief is usually a permanent party assignment with one to two years in the position at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Rarely – if ever – are Airmen deployed to fill a command chief slot.
Chief Master Sgt. Dana Capaldi, the first reservist and first female command chief for the wing, had no apprehensions about that unique position during her first day in the seat on Dec. 28, 2020. For her, the job is no different than anywhere else – only the location changes the nature of the assignment.
“It was easy to volunteer for this opportunity,” she said. “I’ve been in the Air Force for over 30 years and deployed multiple times. You never know going in how it will be, but I wasn’t apprehensive – everyone in the wing has been amazing.”
The six-month slot was filled on a volunteer basis. Applicants were selected and interviewed, the final choice being selected by 379th AEW Commander Brig. Gen. Dan Tulley.
“I was humbled to be chosen – there’s a lot of trust implied because I will be deployed for the rest of the time on his tour here,” said Capaldi. “My goal is to continue the forward momentum of the wing and adjust any footing that needs to be adjusted rather than altering things just for the sake of doing something while I’m here.”
As the first reservist chief the wing has had, Capaldi has not been limited in her experience at an Air Force base. Although she’s never been a command chief at a wing with so many people, she has been in a multi-branch environment at her reserve base and worked with Army, Navy and Marine entities.
“I wasn’t apprehensive about the job because, no matter where I’m a command chief, the job is to take care of our enlisted Airmen,” she said. “The only difference I have noticed is here you have more enlisted senior leaders to help get everyone mission ready. The newest experience for me is meeting our coalition partners and getting their perspectives throughout some of the immersion events I’ve gone to about the mission.”
In addition to her experience in a joint environment, Capaldi has a unique perspective on issues many active-duty Airmen will not encounter in their careers – such as pay status.
“In the Air Force Reserve and National Guard, we have several different pay statuses that can’t always be handled by a deployed finance office and has to instead be coordinated with their home unit,” Capaldi explained. “I am in a position to help lift the veil of those intricacies as I get into the battle rhythm of the wing and will reach a point of understanding where I can start to provide feedback that might be helpful in those instances.”
Matters like pay issues can be a huge burden for Airmen and their families so far from home. As a proponent for those Airmen and by using functional resources like first sergeants, Capaldi plans to help Airmen succeed where she is able in her time here.
“I won’t get to see projects come to fruition, but I will get to enjoy being a part of a rotation that has been here as well as experience a new rotation,” she said. “This is not a typical deployment experience, but I’m looking forward to using the experience I’ve gained from having been an active duty Airman, guardsman, and reservist.”
Not only does her career experience help her enable the enlisted force, but she is also the first female command chief the 379th AEW has had.
“There always has to be a first – and in my case that is being a reservist and a female command chief of the largest expeditionary wing in the world,” said Capaldi. “I never saw me at the table when I first joined the Air Force, but we’ve grown a lot as a military and continue to grow. The unique experiences of my career allow me to be two firsts in this instance, and what I hope many other Airmen take from this moment is that they have the potential to be at the table in the future. But it is important to know that I’m here for you; and no matter who I am in the history of the wing, what matters most is I’m here to help you do the mission.”