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"I wanted to have a purpose." Why Danielle LaGuardia-Barlette, a member of our team, joined the Air Force

"I can definitely say that enlisting is the best thing I’ve ever done."

For Veterans Day, we wanted to take a moment to recognize someone close to us to thank her for her service. And we say close, we mean that we have the honor of working with her every day.

A photo of Danielle LaGuardia-Barlette in an Air Force uniform in front of a plane. She's active duty in the military and part of the Death Wish team.

Danielle LaGuardia-Barlette is a member of our shipping and receiving team, but she's also an air transportation craftsman load planner for the United States Air Force, a position she's held since 2013. So not only does she kick ass every day for logistics, but she spends weekends training for the Air Force, prepping for deployment next year. 

So when you're sipping out of your coffee today, raise a mug to Danielle and all of our nations' Veterans, past and present — thank you for your service, your bravery, and your sacrifice for our nation!

What do you do in for the Air Force?

I’m an Air Transportation Craftsman Load Planner. Essentially, I work in the aerial port. I inspect all cargo — general, hazardous, explosives, you name it — verify it is air-worthy, then create a load plan which determines where all the freight needs to be placed on the aircraft in order to keep the aircraft balanced in flight.

What made you want to be in the Air Force? Was there a particular moment when you knew?

As a kid, I held military personnel on a pedestal and thought I could never be good enough to do what they do. As I got older, a lot of my friends had joined the Army and Marine Corps. They pushed me to talk to some recruiters because I had somewhat of the military mentality. I got hooked and really wanted to be a part of something bigger than me. I wanted to have a purpose. I can definitely say that enlisting is the best thing I’ve ever done.

What’s it like being a woman in the Air Force?

It’s honestly not much different from being a civilian. There are those who respect us, and there are those who think we are weak and try to take advantage of us. My unit is my second family and I would trust my life in the hands of anyone there. They always have my back, as I have theirs. The civilian side has become more and more like it’s every man for himself. Nowadays, there is very little camaraderie and respect in civilian life which makes it very difficult to justify the sacrifices I make. It’s easy to feel like a target when deployed, but I know anyone around me would kill for me. Here, I can’t walk to my car at night without questioning whether I should carry a knife.

You’re being deployed next year, what kind of training does that entail?

Unfortunately, the military loves PowerPoints. ‘Death by PowerPoint’ is the motto, so we have a lot of online training pertaining to general topics about where we are deploying to.  We also have a lot of hands-on, job-specific training as well. My drill weekends consist of mock deployment exercises. We are also required to qualify on our weapon, pass a physical fitness test and test our chem gear and gas masks via chemical warfare scenarios.

What challenges come with that while you’re also working a full-time job at Death Wish?

My superiors at Death Wish have been great with covering my duties any time I must be on orders. I get a little sluggish coming back to work after a drill weekend because I don’t get the weekend to relax, but it’s part of the way of life. When it gets closer to my leave date, it will be much more stressful but I will still put 100 percent into my job at Death Wish. I'll just have to crack a few cold brews open and get to it!