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Face of Defense: Lieutenant’s Excellence as Legal Intern Earns Incentive Flight

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas, Sept. 16, 2016 — As children, boys often dream of growing up to become a firefighter, doctor, policeman or soldier.

Few ever fulfill those childhood dreams, however, Air Force 2nd Lt. Chris Hsu did.

“As a little boy, I think like all little kids, I wanted to be a soldier one day,” said Hsu, an Air Education and Training Command Judge Advocate legal intern. “I never grew out of that little dream.”

Hsu, an immigrant from Taiwan, moved to the United States in grade school. His parents would move him and his brother, Tim, to Taiwan and then back to the United States again after sixth grade before the family settled in Houston.

“My parents moved us intentionally so we could be fluent in both languages,” Hsu said. “They sacrificed a lot.”

Military Scholarship

He attended Texas A&M University and received a degree in mechanical engineering in 2014. While at the university, Hsu was awarded a scholarship with the Corps of Cadets, where he spent four years in a military academy-type environment and received his commission to the Air Force upon his graduation.

Hsu gave up his Taiwanese citizenship when he joined the Air Force, said Air Force Lt. Col. Trinh Peterson, AETC Judge Advocate Association chief of civil law. “That tells you his dedication to this country and serving here.”

After graduation, Hsu was accepted to the University of Houston’s Law Center and is slated to graduate law school next spring, when he will also apply for a position in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. While attending law school, Hsu is on reserve status and will return to active duty upon graduation.

“We got really lucky,” Peterson said of having Hsu as their summer intern. “He really is a shining star.”

During his internship, Hsu said he rotated through different divisions at the JAG office, such as contracting, military justice, operations and the civil division, to “learn what they do.”

Peterson said Hsu was able save the Air Force money by resolving protests to a pending contract, which can result if contractors believe they didn’t get a fair chance at the contract. Hsu was also able to clear the backlog of packages on adverse actions against senior enlisted people and officers, which are sent up to the Air Force chief of staff for approval on discharges.

Impressive Work Performance

Hsu drafted legal reviews, put the packages together and sent it to a two-star general, Peterson said. “We don’t even really allow young captains to do that, but [he] showed us he could. He writes very, very well.”

Due to his impressive work performance, Air Force Col. Polly S. Kenny, AETC staff judge advocate, nominated Hsu for an incentive ride. Incentive rides are an award granted to enlisted or young officers based upon significant achievements and allow service members to ride in aircraft operated on base.

“He did such amazing work for us and cleared work we had just sitting because we were low on personnel for a while,” Peterson said. “She [Kenny] thought he really deserved it.”

Before Hsu took flight in a T-38 Talon, Air Force Maj. Gavin Peterson, 435th Fighter Training Squadron flight commander, briefed him on what to expect, as well as on safety precautions such as how to eject.

“When we were done with all of the exercise [in flight], Major Peterson gave the control to me and taught me how to turn left and right,” Hsu said.

Hsu said getting to see the view was the best part of the flight, and he was honored to get to see the operations side of what pilots do.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous and beautiful up there,” he said. “It’s not like a commercial airplane with a small window; you’re immersed in the clouds and sky.”

At the end of the experience, Hsu credited God, his family and the people he’s been surrounded with in the Air Force for his success.

“That’s what makes being here in the Air Force so cool; it’s the people,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here without these people that I meet. I just want to give credit to all of them.

“I really don’t have any accomplishments,” Hsu continued. “If I do have anything, it’s because of the people who invest in me. Hopefully one day I can do the same for other people. That’s really my goal.”

Distribution channels: Military