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Latino Caucus, JFHQ recognize 162nd Member

Arizona Sen. Richard Miranda presents a Latino Caucus Award to Tech. Sgt. Michael Brizuela at a ceremony in Phoenix, Oct. 1. Sergeant Brizuela was recognized for his community involvement and leadership. He is an F-16 crew chief at the 195th Fighter Squadron in Tucson, Ariz. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Charles Wade)

Arizona Sen. Richard Miranda presents a Latino Caucus Award to Tech. Sgt. Michael Brizuela at a ceremony in Phoenix, Oct. 1. Sergeant Brizuela was recognized for his community involvement and leadership. He is an F-16 crew chief at the 195th Fighter Squadron in Tucson, Ariz. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Charles Wade)

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Latino Legislative Caucus and Joint Force Headquarters recognized a 162nd Fighter Wing maintenance technician for outstanding volunteerism during a ceremony here, Oct. 1.

State Sen. Richard Miranda, D-Phoenix, presented Tech. Sgt. Michael Brizuela a Latino Caucus Award at Arizona National Guard Headquarters in observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Annually, the caucus recognizes members of the Hispanic community with awards and scholarships for individual achievement.

Sergeant Brizuela, an F-16 crew chief at Tucson International Airport, is a 17-year member of the Arizona Air National Guard. He consistently seizes every opportunity to volunteer in the community.

"This was a big surprise for me and I didn't expect it. I felt like I was only doing what I was supposed to do... and that is contributing a small part to a greater cause," said Sergeant Brizuela.

Recently, he volunteered to be a legal mediator for the Arizona State Attorney General's Office, Civil Rights Division. Sergeant Brizuela has begun training and will work as a legal mediator where he will use his language skills to help Spanish speaking persons in legal mediation proceedings.

In his own neighborhood, he volunteers to work with at-risk youth through a community program that provides role models and mentoring for less privileged middle school students; positively affecting children's lives.

He is a regular Red Cross volunteer and has donated more than 32 gallons of blood over the past 16 years.

"What struck me about him was that volunteering seems to be second nature for him," said Maj. Sandy Wilson, 162nd Fighter Wing Equal Opportunity director. "He is somebody who gives back. It's part of who he is. What's so admirable about him is that he was surprised and didn't expect it. It says a lot about him."

In true form, the sergeant credits others for the ability to serve and for the recognition he received.

"I definitely could not have been able to volunteer without the support of my family and coworkers. It's important that they get recognized as well. They have made it possible for me to help the community and represent the unit. It's not about me, it's about we and I humbly accepted the award on their behalf," said Sergeant Brizuela.

His list of occupational achievements also grows with each additional or special duty.

During his tenure with the 162nd, he's served as a 17-year member of the wing's Honor Guard and performs at award ceremonies, funerals, retirements and community events.

He deployed to Colombia to work as a ground interpreter, and flew as mission crew on U.S. Air Force AWACS and Customs Service P-3 Airborne Early Warning aircraft where he worked surveillance and interdiction for aerial drug smuggling. He also performed escort duties for Colombian air traffic controllers.

In 2007, he volunteered to deploy to Balad Air Base, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He worked as an augmentee maintenance mechanic and crew chief. While there, he volunteered his off-duty time in the hospitals assisting medical professionals with wounded soldiers, preparing beds and assisting with evacuating seriously injured servicemembers out of theater.

"When I watch the news and see all that is going on with this war, I feel good knowing that I have done my part. I can say that I did something," he said.

His commitment is displayed through his self-sacrifice. The majority of his volunteering is done on his own time. He is supported by his wife of eight years, Lina, and their son, Gilbert.