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Better late than never

Better late than never

Senior Airman Richard Cabak, 5th Maintenance Group Maintenance Management Analyst, scans his screen at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Sept. 9, 2019. Cabak joined the Air Force three days before his 40th birthday. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb S. Kimmell)


As the lights dim and the bays grow silent, he crawls into his neatly-made bed. He hoped for some well-earned rest, with his body covered in sores and bruises. Just as he succumbed to sleep, 30 men’s voices pierce the air in the tune of happy birthday. This was the first moment he felt connected to his new brothers-in-arms.


Just three days before he turned 40, Senior Airman Richard J. Cabak, Maintenance Management Analyst for the 5th Maintenance Group, left for Air Force Basic Military Training.


When the company he worked for fizzled out, he was posed with several choices. He could either travel to a different state and work for a new company, or he could try something new. Cabak chose the latter.


“The question I always get asked is ‘why did you join so late?’,” said Cabak. “It has always been a lifelong dream of mine.”


Cabak said he received a few odd looks here and there, but he wouldn’t let that stop him. The recruiters helped push him to BMT as fast as possible, and he accepted the first job offered to him: maintenance management analysis.


He says his leadership was curious when he first arrived at Minot.


“They gave me some looks, but to be honest I wasn’t phased by it,” said Cabak. “They welcomed me and I’m very happy with the result.”


Cabak says he has three major goals in life: serve in the military, become a pilot and later on a doctor. Having enlisted and received his pilot license, he says becoming a doctor is only a few years away.


“I joined because I was inspired,” said Cabak. “Simple as that.”


Cabak has done many things since he has enlisted. He is a member of Airmen Against Drunk Driving, and is very proud to be a spokesperson for the group.


“Life might be a struggle every day, but I power through it,” said Cabak. “What’s stopping me?”


His actions have even incited his son Hans to follow in his footsteps and enlist; he is now currently finishing tech school in California as a cryptologic linguist. They have a running joke and competition to see who can make the rank of chief master sergeant first.


“He has blossomed; my wife and I are so proud,” said Cabak.


Cabak often thinks back to that night in BMT when his wingmen sang for his birthday. He says he is extremely grateful to have amazing leadership and wingmen and wants to thank everyone who has given him a chance and helped to achieve his lifelong goal.

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