BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Conn. --
Senior Airman John Donnelly, III grew up watching his father serve in the Connecticut Air National Guard. Following in his father’s footsteps, the recently promoted Senior Airman joined the Guard in 2017 and is currently assigned to the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron. Like his father, Donnelly is well on his way to having an impactful and enduring career in the Guard.
Donnelly is one of many Guardsmen who have been called to state active duty in response to the COVID-19 crisis. His first COVID-19 mission was in April, when he and fellow members of 103rd CES went to Stanford Hospital to set up 250 beds for patient overflow. During an interview, the 20-year-old Connecticut native discussed his experience with the COVID-19 response and how his career in the Guard has enhanced his life, both personally and professionally.
Interviewer: What thoughts went through your mind when you first heard about the COVID-19 pandemic? Did you think you would be called to respond?
Donnelly: I knew there was a possibility, but I did not expect it to get this big. Knowing the state of New York, I figured, once it grew there, it had a good possibility of coming here and us also being affected by it.
Interviewer: This is your first time on state active duty, right? How do you feel?
Donnelly: I’m definitely excited to see the full power of the Air National Guard being used, especially for state and domestic needs. So I was excited for that and I was excited to get out of quarantine and stay busy helping out the people that need help in these hospitals. It's a good experience.
Interviewer: What inspired you to join the Guard?
Donnelly: There's a lot of reasons why I wanted to join the Guard. One is to serve the great state of Connecticut. My father was a Guardsman here in the Civil Engineer Squadron for almost 20 years. It's just a great experience that not a lot of people will have the privilege to have. So, just taking that into consideration, I thought it'd be best to pursue it and join something that can help people and help our state and our country.
Interviewer: Traditional Guardsmen, such as yourself, typically have a lot of things going on other than serving in the Guard? What are you involved in outside of the Guard?
Donnelly: I'm a sophomore at UConn, I'll be finishing up my sophomore year in May. I'm a civil engineering major right now. As difficult as that may seem, it's exciting. It's something I want to pursue and it's something that may help my career in the Guard. With that in mind, I am involved in a bunch of extra-curricular activities, such as I joined a fraternity on campus- Sigma Phi Epsilon; I’m the Executive Secretary in that. I'm also part of a Greek Bible study that I created with a missionary on campus as part of FOCUS [Fellowship of Christian University Students]. I play recreational lacrosse and I help coach youth programs.
Interviewer: You are a member of the Civil Engineer Squadron and you’re majoring in civil engineering at UConn. Have you always been interested in civil engineering?
Donnelly: I think I knew I wanted to become an engineer, just due to how much I liked math and science in high school. I really didn't know much about civil engineering and then I applied to the program at UConn and got accepted. I think the combination of my experience in the Guard and my time at UConn studying civil engineering has really meshed well together and I see it as something I enjoy and I look forward to pursuing.
Interviewer: How would you characterize your overall experience with the Guard?
Donnelly: It's given me a lot of opportunities that not a lot of younger kids have coming out of high school. I was able to help plan projects that we were doing on DFTs [Deployment for Training], like in Hawaii and certain projects around the base, so that gave me some project management and planning experience. That's nice to put on a resume and it's helped me get through internships pretty early on in my UConn career. And then, personally, it's just allowed me to grow as a leader. It’s taught me discipline, taught me how to respect my elders and just respect the environment that I'm in and just do my very best in everything that I do.