Chicago kid, Altus defender seizes opportunity for better life

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Miyah Gray
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

From growing up in a dangerous and impoverished neighborhood in Chicago to becoming a U.S. Air Force Airman, Airman 1st Class Michael Mason, 97th Security Forces Squadron patrolman, understands the need to better oneself.

“I grew up in a single parent household in Englewood,” said Mason. “My mom did the best she could, she worked multiple jobs but it was very hard on her. I knew that staying on the right path was something I had to do not only for myself but to make sure her hard work wasn’t for nothing.”

Mason reflected on his time as a child in the south Chicago suburb, where trouble wasn’t hard to find. Rather than being influenced by his environment, he made sure to occupy his time with extracurricular activities.

“As a kid I played basketball for the Amateur Athletic Union with a local church and participated in after-school activities to keep me in a productive environment,” said Mason. “Sports kept me out of trouble, but not having guidance on how to be successful posed the question ‘how do I become the person I’ve always wanted to be?’”

After graduating high school, Mason went to college for a short period. After considering the cost, he decided the Air Force was the best route to pursue his aspirations, make a difference and inspire his family.

Since enlisting, he said the Air Force taught him that most situations are in his control and giving up is not an option. Mason has decided that he wants to pursue a career in business management and plans on using his experience in the military to help get him there. 

“The Air Force has changed my perspective on how I view order.” Mason said. Being able to see how an entire unit full of Airmen and officers functions as one, I feel like the structure would translate well into running a business.”

Despite hardships Mason has faced throughout his life, he is always looking for ways to better himself. He explained he is proud of who he is becoming and thanks the Air Force for playing a big part in that change.

“I feel like I made the right choice in joining the Air Force,” he said. “It has helped me realize that I’m able to pursue things at a level higher than I ever thought I could. I love the direction my life is going and I’m motivated to make my dreams come true.”