718th IS Airman stellar performer from the start

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Timothy Mobley
  • 655th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing

Senior Airman Joe Chau, 718th Intelligence Squadron cyber systems operations technician, has returned from basic military training and technical school with three awards and many accolades already under his belt and his Air Force career is only just beginning.


The first in his family to join the military, Chau is also the first in his family to be born in the United States.


“As a second-generation immigrant, I was excited to incorporate the military into my family legacy,” said Chau. A family friend, Master Sgt. Mills-Hearne, acted as a mentor, guiding him through the enlistment process and helping him discern what to expect.


Prior to joining the military, Chau received both a bachelor's degree and master's degree in information technology from George Mason University with a concentration in intelligence technologies. He also worked as a network engineer in the private sector for five years before taking a role in IT Strategy at Nation Public Radio (NPR) in 2016. Just two weeks before shipping out to basic training, Chau earned the distinction of NPR's Newcomer of the Year.


In preparing for basic training, Chau had anticipated the physical and mental challenges, but not the emotional aspects involved. Finding his role in the flight was a pivotal part of this process. Isolated from communication with family and friends, he turned his focus to responsibilities as an element leader and a determination to use the time for self-improvement. This image as a positive role-model is the primary reason Chau was voted Most Outstanding Airman by his flight peers.


Chau recalled his military training instructor, Tech. Sgt. Mitchell saying, “If you are here, you are either running from something or running towards something. Which one are you?” This question served as a reminder to strive to be a better, more complete person, a goal maintained by Chau, who completed basic training as an honor graduate and ranked 2nd out of 600 graduates.


At technical school, Chau distinguish himself not only as a student, but also as a tutor. While there, he initiated an informal tutoring group which quickly grew from three classmates to more than 40 participants, promoted and endorsed by his tech school instructors. This study group focused on passing the Security+ certification exam, a mandatory requirement for the career field.


Chau used innovative study techniques to help learn complex computer security topics.


“One example was something I called the Kerberos Karnival,” said Chau. “It described how a Kerberos Server worked much like a carnival.”


Helpful analogies like these helped to boot the pass rate of his class significantly over previous classes. This achievement drew the attention of the squadron commander, Lt. Col. Schmitt, who awarded Chau the commander’s coin.


“I would not have passed without [his] lessons,” said classmate Senior Airman Armstrong. A sentiment echoed by several others. Endorsements like these were the reason Chau was awarded Distinguished Graduate in technical school.