MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
Working as an emergency medical technician in New York City where a yearly call volume is around 5,000, is a grueling job especially when responding to crime scenes of stabbings or shootings.
For Senior Airman Angelo DePrimo, 366th Contracting Squadron contract specialist, this was his life — on top of going to school and working a second job.
While working his second job life guarding, he met an Air Force pararescuemen who sparked his interest in joining the military.
“Besides the actual call volume, and what I was dealing with every day on the ambulance I wasn’t finding anything else challenging,” he said.
After two years of training while finishing his degree he would enlist in one of the U.S. Air Force’s most grueling career fields—pararescue.
“I got to basic in October of 2015, and within the first week my (military training instructor) picked me to be dorm chief,” he explained. “I had no idea what that was at that time.”
DePrimo, without any knowledge of what being the dorm chief consisted of, would prove himself successful and would go on to be chosen as a zone leader during Beast Week, where he oversaw more than 200 fellow trainees.
He explained that in his flight there were 30 or 40 trainees and everyone was from different walks of life, and he had to really broaden his leadership style to fit all of these different personalities, backgrounds where these people were coming from.
“I think that’s probably one of the biggest things that’s going to help me out in the future,” he said.
Watching over his flight wouldn’t be the biggest obstacle he would face while in basic training.
“We had just graduated, my family had just saw me for the weekend, I went to Airmen’s week and that Tuesday I went to Wilford Hall and had everything checked out and then they told me I had cancer,” he said.
At that moment he was at a loss of words, he explained.
“For me, this was two years leading up to this of training and getting ready for pararescue, and now I am two weeks away from actually starting (indoctrination) and they’re telling me I might not be able to do it,” DePrimo said.
That night he went to Wilford Hall Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio for his exams and shortly after would be transferred to San Antonio Medical Center to have emergency surgery to remove the cancer.
Barely able to walk, he checked himself out of the hospital the day after his surgery and returned to Airmen’s week to be with his flight.
“Leadership wasn’t too thrilled about that,” he said with a smile. “My mindset at that point was, ‘alright I had my surgery I’m fine.’”
Although DePrimo wanted to show that this wasn’t going to stop him from doing what he sat out to do, leadership was not willing to take the risk.
He was placed in medical holdover, where he was with other Airmen who were waiting to be forcefully separated and whose only duty was monotonous daily support tasks.
“People are down, they just want to get out of there, people feel like they are stuck,” he recollected. “I got there and I didn’t want to fall into that same trap as everyone else.”
DePrimo would go in front of the informal medical board and find that their decision was to medically discharge him.
For many this would be an easy time to give up and accept the board’s decision, but not for DePrimo. He relied on his positive attitude to get himself through the obstacle set in front of him.
During his time in medical holdover, he realized that his positive outlook was becoming somewhat infectious to those around him.
While there he took it upon himself to improve the morale by setting up a volunteer program to help get fellow trainees and his own mind off of the situation they were in.
These actions wouldn’t go unnoticed.
When he met with his physical evaluation board liaison officer, he expressed his willingness to do whatever it took to stay in the military.
"She said, it’s going to be a long fight,” DePrimo explained. “You can try and fight it if you want to, but there are no guarantees that it is going to come out favorable.”
After beginning the process, he realized how many people were in his corner. The director of operations at medical holdover put him in contact with the flight doctor who stood up for him at the formal board and said ‘there’s no reason why he can’t continue in the pipeline.’
His perseverance would pay off.
DePrimo would be approved to stay in the military and would move over to Lackland’s Medina Annex for indoctrination to become a pararescueman.
Upon his arrival to Medina, he would be shocked to find out only a handful of Airmen from his flight had made it through.
“I knew what I was getting myself into, but it was definitely a reality check seeing that there were three guys left,” he said in disbelief.
He had missed his initial class and would spend the next month awaiting the next class to start. This presented him with a unique opportunity to get to know the cadre that would be teaching his class.
The month had come and gone and DePrimo would finally be able to start pararescue indoctrination. All his training leading up this moment would be tested.
Waking up at 5:30 a.m. for breakfast before meeting at the school house at 8:30 a.m.
Head to the pool for a few hours before breaking for lunch at noon.
After lunch heading back to the pool from noon - 2 p.m.
Then back to the school house for another workout.
“That’s what I was looking for, I was looking for that challenge,” he said.
While in training, one of his cadre said something that has stuck with him.
His cadre talked about breaking through a glass ceiling and said, “Most people will approach a ceiling, but they don’t know that it is glass and you need to find that out and break through it and once you break through that glass ceiling, the sky is the limit.”
This would give him the drive to continue pushing on until his body couldn’t take anymore.
“I washed out during INDOC, honestly to this day I still don't know why,” he said. “I woke up one day and decided it wasn't for me, by the time I had finally started INDOC I was already a year at that point of not having seen my family.”
He would be given the opportunity to stay in the Battlefield Airmen career fields and start the process all over again.
“I had the option to reclass into combat control and I didn’t take it,” he explained.
Leading up to his joining of the military it was only him, but after getting married he realized it wasn’t all about him and he had to think about what was best for his family.
He decided to move onto another career field, contracting.
Before leaving, another one of his cadre gave him the advice to be the “go to guy.”
When he got to the 366th Contracting Squadron, he would do just that.
“From the first day he entered the squadron, Airman DePrimo was eager to step up, no matter the task at hand,” said Major Bryan Ewing, former 366th Contracting Squadron commander. “While this is an admirable trait, what really caught my attention was the fact that he stepped up continuously, not for personal accolades, but out of a desire to help the team.”
Senior Master Sgt. Jesse Hobbs, 366th Contracting Squadron superintendent, explained that with less than one-year experience, DePrimo was selected to brief at CONS Vendor day where he educated approximately 40 local Contractors on Government opportunities.
DePrimo had shown that he was performing tasks well above his rank, and would be selected for multiple quarterly awards that would lead to his promotion of Senior Airman six-months early.
Before Ewing left he would sit down with DePrimo and ask what his goals were.
DePrimo explained that it was always a goal of his to become an officer, but was planning on holding off on submitting his package towards the end of his enlistment. Where Ewing responded with, “Why wait?”
At that point, DePrimo reflected on the next step of his Air Force career and decided to push forward with submitting his package.
To his surprise, there would be another roadblock he would encounter.
“I was getting my package ready for the last board, when I find out if anyone who has an (assignment limitation code) in their file is ineligible to apply for officer training school,” he explained. “I had to start a whole new waiver process and my cancer was, again, haunting me in the progression of my career.”
Although the process was not new to him, DePrimo would have to fight for what he wanted.
Once he submitted the waiver paperwork, the waiting game would begin.
His package would not be ready for the June 2017 OTS board.
After six months, he received the answer he had hoped for…
It has been a long journey for DePrimo, the ups and the downs, but in January 2018 he submitted his package.
Even though he is waiting for the answer to come in March of if he will become an officer, he has sustained a positive outlook and has used his obstacles as a fuel to keep pushing forward.
“Now, when something negative in my life comes up, I think right back to everything I went through and say, ‘Well my positive attitude got me through that and it’s going to get me through this,” he said.