U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --
How does an airman first class get an office bigger than the superintendent’s?
Earn a spot as an Elite Sentry with the 10th Security Forces Squadron, like Giovanni Fiorella.
Fiorella considers the 18,500-acre base, with its sweeping view of the Front Range Mountains, to be his office.
“I get a $Million-dollar view every day,” he said. “There are times just looking around, it brings the mood up.”
Fiorella, 22, is from Palmdale, California. He likes snowboarding, wake boarding, paintball, and dirt and street bikes. He graduated from Quartz Hill High School and is the youngest of four brothers. His parents, Dionisio and Vivian, were tough but loving.
“They taught me if I wanted something, I needed to work for it,” he said. No one is going to hand you things in life. They made me work for everything.”
And work or save to have things teenagers might take for granted, he did. He bought his first cellphone -- “I went down to 7-Eleven and got one of those prepaid models” -- the pickup he drives and just about everything else he has.
Fiorella wanted to be a civil police officer for as long as he can recall, thanks to the influence of his oldest brother, Dionisio Jr., 32, a California Highway Patrolman.
He applied for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The organization started its background check on Fiorella, but Dionisio Jr. said his brother needed more life experience before the department would consider him for the job.
“He’ll run into people he normally would not,” Dionisio Jr. said. “It’s these encounters, whether good or bad, that make this occupation so special.”
Fiorella enlisted in the Air Force for six years with a guaranteed slot in the Security Forces Academy after Basic Military Training.
There was one obstacle to deal with before he could become an Airman: lose weight.
“I weighed 250 pounds when I was 18,” Fiorella said. “I lost 54 pounds to join the Air Force. I wanted it more than anything.”
Fiorella arrived at the Academy in 2015, after eight weeks of basic training and 15 weeks of security forces training in San Antonio. On work days, he can be found at one of the base gates, checking credentials, inspecting vehicles and welcoming visitors.
The Fiorella family was surprised when Fiorella joined the Air Force, let alone security forces, but they think it’s a perfect fit, Dionisio Jr. said.
“Giovanni knows what he wants and takes calculated life choices,” he said.
Staff Sgt. Jacob Duncan, Fiorella’s supervisor, said Fiorella is professional and positive.
“It’s easy to keep positive when things are going great, but Giovanni keeps his positive attitude through the storm,” he said.
Fiorella has his own ideas about professionalism. At a minimum, he said, professionalism extends to the hundreds and sometimes thousands of visitors and Academy staff he sees every day.
“Just saying ‘good morning’ to someone and having them respond in the same way can make your day,” he said. “Just because you’re professional doesn’t mean you can’t be polite.”
Dionisio Jr.’s best advice to his brother is “be prepared.”
“Speak to everyone like you would your grandmother, but be ready to protect your life and the life of others,” he said. “Being calm and collected is what gets police officers through their everyday work lives.”
Fiorella won’t leave the Air Force until he’s promoted into the NCO corps.
“I refuse to get out until I’ve at least made staff sergeant,” he said.
Until then, he’ll continue to appreciate his surroundings at the Academy and build the experience he’ll need one day as a civil police officer.
“The life experience I’ve gained from being in the military is much more than I could’ve received anywhere else,” he said. “I definitely have a broader outlook on life. I look at things with a different thought process now.”
Fiorella said his military career, however long it lasts, has given him an appreciation for the U.S. military.
“It’s given me a second family no one will understand unless they themselves have been through it,” he said.