Col. Jose Sanchez is the director of plans for 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) and a B-2 pilot. He also spent time as chief of the master attack plan. Col. Sanchez has been in the Air Force 26 years and has been given the opportunity to travel all over the world with his jobs.
Question: What does your job as the director of plans entail?
Answer: Our primary mission is to build a partnership capacity, so we can work together in the fight, mostly against counter elicit traffic.
Question: What countries have you traveled to?
Answer: I have traveled to every country in the America’s, with the exception of Bolivia, Guiana, and Venezuela. It’s been very eye-opening. I have been able to immerse myself into the culture.
Question: What’s been your most memorable mission?
Answer: My most memorable mission was night one of the United States entrance into the war in Afghanistan. I was with the Joint Special Operations task force. We had planned the missions leading up to that first night. We got to watch it unfold in front of us, right after the 9/11 attacks, that was definitely the most memorable.
Question: What’s been your favorite mission as a B-2 pilot?
Answer: My combat sortie over Yugoslavia. It was where 15 years of training came together. I felt like I had trained for 15 years for that one mission. You could see the power of training and teamwork all come together. My team and I were able to deliver weapons for everybody in our wing. Everyone made sure that I was well trained and well taken care of, and that my family was well taken care of. I just felt like I was there emissary. My bombs were falling on target, it was amazing.
Question: What have you found to be most rewarding in your career?
Answer: People! Talking to people and taking care of people, that’s what it’s all about. Making sure that everyone is trained and ready increases moral because they’re better at their job. If they’re better at their job then they are more productive at work. It’s so exciting to have a good team that has a defined goal that we can all extract to and have fun in the process. That is why being a squadron commander was my favorite assignment.
Question: Where were you a squadron commander?
Answer: Lackland Air Force Base. I was the commander of a technical training squadron at the Inter- American Air Forces Academy. We taught 47 courses that were all technical that Professional Military Education and Aircraft Maintenance, only in Spanish. You get to see the team and how much they had to work together, because some of them didn’t speak Spanish. We were truly ‘una familia’ (one family). It was awesome.
Question: What have you found to be most challenging?
Answer: The most challenging thing has been leading people through budget cuts and personnel reduction throughout the years. You have to lead your people through the obstacles from sources outside the United States Air Force. It’s the artificiality to the mission, but still getting the mission done, and leading your people through it. That’s the most challenging. It’s harder than flying.
Question: What other jobs have you done in your career?
Answer: I am a professional bomber and trainer pilot. I did that for my first 15 years in the military. After that, I started branching into the international affairs, where I was able to start using my degree in political science and my language skills in Spanish and Portuguese. I used that with my Air Force core expertise, which is being an aviator, I can bring them all together and help expand, not only the Air Force, but the United Stated government goals for our partners. I have also spent two years in Southern Command where I was the chief of political military affairs. It was great to work with a joint team. I also spent a year in the desert at the Air Operations Center in Al Udeid. I was able to work with our Navy and Army counterparts. I was also given the chance to be a liaison officer with the Navy 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain. I was a Navy groupie before so I meshed in well with the Navy in helping them doing their mission as they helped us do our mission.
Question: Did you come in wanting to be a pilot?
Answer: Yes I did. That was the goal. I went through Puerto Rico Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps program. There they said I had a pilot slot. I can say now that being a pilot is easy, but it’s not easy to become a pilot. It was a challenging year in pilot training. I was trained first on the B-52, then the B-2, and how to employ the weapons systems correctly against certain threats. You pretty much have to memorize everything because there’s no going back to the book when something goes wrong, or if someone is shooting at you.