SOUTHWEST ASIA — People join the military for a number of reasons. Some join to serve their country. Some are seeking greater purpose. Some want to provide financial stability for themselves and their family, while others are eager for the chance to explore the world.
For 1st Lt. Jorge Roman Castillo, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Sexual Assault Response coordinator and fourth-generation veteran, it was more than a sense of obligation – it was a calling.
“I grew up along the tropical waters of the Caribbean on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico,” he said. “Although my parents provided my siblings and me a great life, we all felt the need to serve. In fact, most of my family has served or is currently serving in the United States military.”
Castillo, who is deployed here from the 72nd Air Base Wing at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, said while his family tradition of military service helped shape who he is, it is actually his Puerto Rican culture and childhood experiences that help him succeed in his career the most.
“My heritage is important to me because it defines my initial values, my culture and traditions,” he said. “I grew up in a home where respect is always given, and people go out of their way to help each other out. I think my upbringing has been critical in my effectiveness as a SARC and an officer.”
The four-year veteran said his experiences growing up have always kept him grounded in reality, and the pursuit of the American dream is incredibly valuable to him. He demonstrated this passion in college, where he went to three schools to meet the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps requirements. The schedule was arduous, as Castillo averaged only five hours a sleep per night – for three years.
Castillo said while growing up in a multi-generational military family, he was able to see the sacrifices they made throughout the years. He learned why those sacrifices were important and said this understanding and respect played a large part in his life, which he applies to his current position.
“As a SARC, my job is to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect so we can all work in an environment free from sexual assault,” he said. “When we can talk about these issues, we will understand the principles of respect. We also understand how to confront our own biases so we can then align our own personalities to the mission, in a diverse and cohesive environment.”
Regardless of the location he is serving or the mission he is undertaking, Castillo said he simply wants to make a positive impact, and make his family proud.
“I have always loved a quote from the baseball player Roberto Clemente,” he said ‘If you have an opportunity to make things better and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on earth.’ This is true not only for our time here on deployment, but also in our personal lives. The first step is respect.”