Airman Insight: Tech. Sgt. John Heinsey

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tony Harp
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing

Tech. Sgt. John Heinsey, the intelligence superintendent with the 193rd Special Operations Support Squadron, has served 10 years in the Air Force.

Heinsey recently came off of active duty and joined the 193rd Special Operations Wing to be closer to home.

“Tech. Sgt. John Heinsey came to the 193rd SOW nearly a year ago from active-duty service at Air Combat Command Headquarters,” said 2nd Lt. Kurtis B. Kovach, the director of intelligence for the 193rd SOSS. “Since his transfer, he has put his decade of experience as an intelligence analyst, multiple deployments, overseas stationing, and experience with both MAJCOM and SOF organizations to use as he assumed the role of intelligence superintendent. He has thoroughly taken ownership of the personnel, training, and operational support needs and duties of the 193rd SOSS Intel shop, all while adapting to and learning the infrastructure of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

The Reamstown native recently sat down for a conversation about his experience in the military, his love for the outdoors and shinrin-yoku, the Japanese word for forest bathing, and a few other topics.

What brought you into the military?

A number of things. Money for college was a big thing. It was also something to do, as far as a sense of purpose. Following the family tradition, in the military at least. My dad was in the Air Force. My entire family has been in, every branch.

What has kept you in the military?

I think the camaraderie that I’ve been able to build and the network. I’ve been able to build lots of great friendships across the Air Force at this point. It’s a job I really like to do.

Have you ever had a failure or a setback that either directly set you up for success or provided you with a lesson learned that indirectly set you up for success later?

I’m sure there has been, but I haven’t really noticed. The one big thing that stands out, when I initially joined, I was recruited into EOD and part of that, you go into a preliminary training at Lackland. They sit you down and give you an option after you’ve done the two weeks of training. They say, “Alright this is the turning-point. This is either for you, or not for you.” I think it was my decision to get out of EOD, I think you realize that this job is not for me. So I was given Intel. I didn’t choose Intel, but it is something I have really excelled at over the last ten years and I think that’s the big thing for me then.

The military can be very stressful at times. When things start to get overwhelming, do you have a routine or a way to help refresh your mind and get refocused?

I do, if I’m at work I listen to music while I’m working. I can put my ear-buds in and kind of separate everything. When I get out of work I do a lot of outdoors stuff. That is my destresser. There’s something I learned a long time ago in scouts, something called shinrin-yoku, it’s a Japanese for forest bathing. You just go out and walk in the woods and just soak it in, kind of reset your life.

What types of things are you doing now to keep your morale and resiliency up, during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I get more time with my kids. There’s a lot of stuff to do around the house. We just bought our house in September so there’s a lot of projects to do. So that’s kind of where we’re at. Our back yard has been our big thing.

I’ve never really been much of a gym rat. I like to run, do outdoor workouts if I can. We have the Warwick/Ephrata rails-to-trails right by our house, so we’re in a good position to get on the trail and run.

What keeps you motivated/focused?

I think for me it’s really different from what I was doing Active-Duty and now what I’m doing in the Guard. When I was on active duty we had our Federal mission and big projects that I was able to do and affect and affect the entire Air Force. Especially when I was Air Combat Command, before I left ACC we were working this project to create a deployable JWICS [Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System] that could be used at the drop of a hat. That was something I was spearheading. You have that one big project you’re working on and you want to see the end of it.

When I get here, I like to teach, I like to guide people, and I’m able to do that as the superintendent in intel and push the Guardsmen to the same goals I was doing on active duty. Push them to have the purpose. I think that’s what motivates me, motivating other people.

How do you stay productive?

With our job there has to be a little bit of self-starting. Always have those projects [mentioned before], I have a list of projects. I separate them from “got to do it now” and “this is busy work I can do over the next month or two”. For me, having a list of things that need to get done is number one.

What advice would you give to a young Airman that is just joining the military or looking to progress their career?

You get out of it what you put into it. If you’re joining for college, put in the work as a Guardsman or as a military member so you can get the benefit of whatever you’re joining for.

What advice would you tell them to ignore?

There is a lot of bad advice out there. You see some of these Facebook pages out there of enlisted groups or unofficial news sites, a lot of social media lawyers and barracks lawyers. Everyone is salty for their own reasons so stay out of those salty groups. I think your own personal thing should be your own personal thing. Stick with your chain of command, stick with the people you know, don’t go out and ask the personal questions to people that are not in your situation.

Do you have an internal code or mantra you live your life by?

Not really, I’ve heard it a lot from previous supervisors and mentors to just suck less. Do your best to keep striving to be the better person. Be great at your job, and if you make it a habit to be great, you’re not going to be bad. Yeah you’re going to have bad days, everyone has a bad day, but if you can recover from that in a way that you’re going to benefit from it, I think that’s the way to go.

Is there a book that has influenced you that you would recommend? Why?

I’m not really much of a reader. At work I read a lot of stuff, but every now and then I’ll read a book, especially when I’m deployed, or on a long TDY or something like that. I like to read the books that are written by other military professionals, one was “No Easy Days” [by Mark Owen] a former Navy SEAL wrote it. He kind of details out the training they had to go through and the operation on Osama Bin Laden. I think having those types of books, you get to see other people’s perspectives and learn from those to make your own decisions in your own world.

Do you have any obscure/unusual interests or hobbies?

Hunting, fishing and I spend a lot of time with my kids and my wife at home. We have our weekends and that’s our time. We do a lot of family activities.

What fictional character do you resonate the most with? Heroic or non-heroic?

I spent a lot of time on this question… Do I want to go with the typical Captain America or Iron Man? I think Tyrion Lannister from “Games of Thrones”. He’s been the guy that never fits the mold and that’s how I grew up. I never fit into a specific mold, I always had my different hobbies growing up. I was in Boy Scouts and in 4-H I showed sheep and cattle. No one else in my school did that, it was me. You look at him and he always has the mind to do the good thing or the right thing. I feel like that’s how I’ve always been. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrong or right, I’m going to do the right thing.

Do you have any random knowledge to part with?

There something I try to say whenever I get a new Airman or whenever I go to a new unit. When I was Lakenheath we had the fifth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Chief Gaylor talk to us, he had a speech one day. One thing that resonated with me that I try and pass it down is that he said that when he was living in San Antonio, he was living in a cul de sac that had an HOA [Home Owners Association] and everyone gets their yard done by a mowing company. But he always mows his own yard. He said his neighbors asked him one day, “We have someone come do this for you for free, you pay the dues. Why do you do it?” He said, “Well, my name is on the mailbox. I take pride in my house, this is mine.” I think that’s the big thing to take away from that, if you have something that’s yours, take pride in it, own it. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad, if you do something to screw up, own it and move on from it. If you do something great and it’s awesome and everyone loves it, take credit, that’s yours, you did the work for it.