What Is It Like To Join The Air Force? Officer Mangosing On Her Journey From Civilian To Officer

When most people think about the U.S. Air Force, they picture pilots, fighter jets, and carrying out impossible missions on a day-to-day basis. And while they’re not wrong, there’s a whole other side to this particular branch of the United States military. In fact, there are many careers one can explore within the Air Force that have nothing to do with flying, or even being inside of a plane. When it comes to building better citizens for America, the sky's the limit.

The Air Force needs pilots, special operations officers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, human resources specialists, engineers and more to complete their mission. And while pilots play a crucial role in keeping our country safe, none of their efforts would be possible without talented people supporting them, including Acquisition Program Managers like Capt. Kassandra Mangosing. Responsible for everything required to ensure aircrafts are ready to take flight and return safely, Mangosing oversees mechanics and other Airmen to identify any challenges and formulate plans to address them.

Today, Mangosing is an experienced Airman with crucial responsibilities. Yet her flightpath followed a unique route that didn't necessarily involve the typical majors or internships in the field she works in now. We partnered with the U.S. Air Force to talk to Mangosing to learn about her journey from civilian to officer and how she’s breaking barriers.

Behind Her Motivation To Join The Military

Mangosing's father was in the military, making her what some people (herself included) call a “military brat.” Since her family moved around a lot, she spent half of her childhood overseas — first in Japan, and then in Italy, where she graduated high school.

“When I was moving around a lot when I was younger, I used to think there was no way I would ever want to put my kids through [so many moves], because it’s hard,” Mangosing said. “It’s hard to make new friends and start over, especially in a new county. But as I got older, and especially because of all of the amazing things I was able to experience while living in Italy, I realized the experiences I had been afforded were because of the military. ”

Motivation to join the Air Force also came from her father, who served in the Air Force for 28 years.

"Service — in any capacity that we can give to our country and our community — is really important."

“My dad, he’s my hero,” Mangosing said. “The service he gave to the Air Force and to our country set an example for me, that service — in any capacity that we can give to our country and our community — is really important.”

Her First Steps Toward Becoming An Airman

After realizing her desire to be in the Air Force, Mangosing applied for an Air Force ROTC scholarship in high school, but at 18-years-old, she wasn’t sure what she wanted her role within the organization to be.

“Knowing that you want to be in the military, that’s already one big step and trying to narrow it down makes it really difficult,” she said. “But having lived overseas for all of those years made me really interested in international relations and foreign languages. After my interview with the Air Force, I was told they were launching a foreign language scholarship program and they thought I would be a good fit for it.”

After being awarded the scholarship, Mangosing was selected to study Chinese. Nearly simultaneously, she was accepted to Stanford University, graduating four years later with a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese.

How Her Role Evolved Into An Operations Officer

The jump from graduating with credentials in a foreign language to a role as a maintenance officer may seem extreme, but is a perfect example of how the Air Force works with each individual candidate to ensure their best skills are being put forward.

“When I went to fulfill my field training, which is your major training block for officers to go to in the ROTC program, I spoke with one of my mentors there about my performance, and some of the strengths that she saw in me during that time, and what I enjoyed from that training,” Mangosing said. “We talked about how I enjoyed the leadership aspect and being in charge of a big team. She suggested looking into aircraft maintenance because I’d lead a large group of people, would have a large amount of responsibility, and would be up in front of others every day.”

Although she had a language degree, Mangosing considered her mentor’s suggestion and ultimately decided to give it a try.

“I liked the idea of being a leader to a large group of people, and I also didn’t know how long I’d be in the Air Force and wanted to be as close to the mission of flying as possible,” she said.

Despite having no prior formal or technical training in aviation, Mangosing dove headfirst into her new role. After a 14-week course to learn the basics of aviation management, her “classroom” became on-the-job experience, learning more about her role and how other organizations in the Air Force support the aircraft maintenance industry every single day.

What Being An Airman Means To Her

The mission of the Air Force is to "Fly, fight, and win," and Mangosing wants to be as close to that mission as possible.

“To be close to the mission without actually being a pilot in the seat is pretty gratifying,” she said. “It’s pretty gratifying to be able to lead the Airmen who have become so skilled in their trade, and to be able to safely operate and maintain these aircraft on a day-to-day basis. When you’re in aircraft maintenance and see pilots come home safely every single day, you know exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it because you’re getting pilots and their machines combat ready."

"Don’t be afraid to be yourself. It paves the way for more women to be self-empowered to be the leader they want to be, and not necessarily fit into a mold.”

Her Advice To Women Thinking About Entering The Air Force

Mangosing doesn’t want women to feel intimidated about joining the military and offered some advice for anyone thinking of joining the Air Force.

“Embrace all aspects of yourself, and don’t be afraid to be yourself,” she said. “It paves the way for more women to be self-empowered to be the leader they want to be, and to not necessarily fit into a mold.”

This post is sponsored by the U.S. Air Force.