by Tech. Sgt. Jerome S. Tayborn
15th Wing Public Affairs
10/15/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Master
Sgt. Ricardo Russo, Pacific Air Forces medical operations manager, was
recently recognized as the distinguished graduate for his standout
performance at the U.S. Marine Corps Staff Non-Commissioned Officer
Academy at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
According Maj. Cynthia McGee, 15th Medical Logistics Flight commander,
Russo's success at the academy was no surprise as he was hand-selected
for the academy by his unit, wing, major command and the chief master
sergeant of the Air Force.
"Master Sgt. Russo is an exceptional flight chief, known for mastering
multi-tasking," she said. "I'd often ask, 'how are you the point of
contact for so many high-visibility projects and events while meeting
all of our day-to-operations?' His response was, 'it's easy, Ma'am.' I
was very happy that he was recognized as the distinguished graduate, but
I wasn't surprised. That's MSgt Russo's style...all-in 100 percent
regardless! Russo is the type of leader that's going places and taking
everyone in his sphere of influence with him."
However, according to Russo, attending the Marine Corps SNCO academy as
the only Air Force member did come with a unique set of challenges.
"I was ready for it, as I expected some good natured ribbing, but it
really was a great experience," he said. "However, I wanted to blend in
(though it was really hard to do), and I received no special favors or
cut any corners. When it came to the training, whatever they did, I
wanted to do, and up to a point, I felt I tried harder because I knew I
was representing the Air Force. I think that effort showed and they
appreciated it and they welcomed me faster and smoother than I
To that end, one of Russo's most memorable moments during the course
came when he completed the grueling physical race in his personal best
"The trail is known as 'baby tears' because of what it reduces a grown
person to, and it is quite challenging," he said. "I like the fact that
physical fitness was a big component of the course. It's a big part of
what we do as far as readiness, and the instructors teach us to lead
from the front, so we were definitely challenged physically throughout
the seven weeks of school."
In addition to physical fitness, the course also provided plenty leadership development.
"Oddly enough, their approach to leadership is fairly close to the way I
have done so--straightforward and professional," said Russo.
Though the class was among the stand-out experiences of his career,
Russo said there was one disadvantage to attending another services
"The only drawback to this class is that I didn't make the relationships
we tend to form with our peers throughout these types of courses. Those
relationships are usually helpful and easily maintained as we would see
each other again either here on base, at another base, deployment or
TDY. So in that aspect, I do feel like I missed out on that by not
attending Air Force SNCOA," said Russo. "But with that being said, it
was one of the highlights of my career and I would do it again in a
Russo said attending the Marine Corps academy was an eye-opening experience any NCO given the chance should welcome.
"Getting the opportunity to spend time with a sister service and
literally see how they live, learn, operate and come to decisions was a
wonderful experience for me that all my peers should be interested in,"
he said. "Whether it's this academy or other sister service academies,
do not let the chance pass you by--apply!"