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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chelsea Milburn, Commander Naval Air Force Reserve Public Affairs
“My Navy career is a little nonstandard,” said Downey. “I actually started out on active duty in the Air Force, and I served there for eight years primarily as a C-130 pilot. I had the chance to separate early, which I did. After that, I immediately affiliated with the “Minutemen” of Fleet Logistics Squadron (VR) 55 in the Navy Reserve.”
Through sharing his experiences in the Air Force and learning from his new peers in the Navy Reserve, Downey says he has built a new respect for understanding the value of diverse perspectives.
“I’ve seen how a team of people with very different backgrounds and ways of thinking can benefit an organization by applying their unique ways of perceiving the world to problem solving,” Downey said.
In his role as the first-ever Force Inclusion and Diversity Officer (FIDO) on the staff of Commander, Naval Air Force Reserve (CNAFR), Downey is putting his experiences to practice ensure those differing perspectives are heard.
“In short, my role as FIDO is to promote inclusion and diversity across CNAFR,” he said. “What I’m looking to do is not only to remove barriers, but continue to foster a culture of understanding the value each individual perspective brings to our strength as a team.”
Downey’s new role is a significant change of pace from his previous Reserve and Air Force assignments. “I started out at VR-55 as a pilot,” he said. “In addition to flying, I’ve worked in the operations department, maintenance department, admin department — typically things you do at the squadron level. This is my first time being on a staff, and especially being on a headquarters staff — so it’s very different.”
Downey still has the opportunity to fly with VR-55 and recently returned from deployment as part of a detachment supporting operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility. He explained that being able to see things from the squadron level and headquarters-staff level simultaneously has been a benefit to him in his role as FIDO.
“It does help you see the broader, overall picture of your organization,” he said. “I think that’s been invaluable in my role. As I go back and fly with VR-55, I can see how what we implement at the headquarters level impacts our squadrons firsthand and can easily receive direct feedback.”
Downey says he has appreciated the change of pace and the new career challenges, but says his new position means much more to him than a change of scenery.
“As I’ve progressed in my military career, I’ve started to think about my legacy ... because I’m not going to be doing this forever,” he said. “For me, I look at this role as a way to leave an imprint and give back to the next generation coming behind me by striving to leave the organization better than it was when I started.”
Commander, Naval Air Force Reserve mans, trains and equips the Naval Air Force Reserve in order to provide enduring operational support and strategic depth to Naval forces that win in combat.