EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska – Before each regularly scheduled drill, or RSD, the commander or command chief of 168th Wing, Alaska Air National Guard, asks a unit member to share his or her personal story.
On Feb. 8, Tech. Sgt. Cody Finney, a 168th Maintenance Group production controller, shared her story with wing leaders.
While the opportunity is a chance for the Airmen to practice their public speaking skills, this is not the real reason wing commanders and chiefs ask members to tell their stories. The true reason is to learn more about one another and to better understand why Airmen serve.
Finney was born and raised in Nenana, Alaska, a village of roughly 500 people that rests along the banks of the Nenana River, about 53 miles south of Fairbanks.
"Growing up in Nenana gave me the full Alaskan experience," Finney said. "My family had a sled dog team and I raced in a few local sprints with my two huskies, Paaka and Chinook."
She shared how she spent her summers at fish camp on the Tanana River, playing on the river bank and picking berries while her family monitored the fishing wheel.
Finney said her decision to join the Alaska Air National Guard was a combination of several things in her life.
"Growing up, I loved playing basketball," she said. "I got three basketball scholarships while I was a senior in high school."
Finney said while she was college-level good at basketball, being 5 feet 3 3/4 inches tall she didn't feel she was the ideal WNBA candidate, so she started looking for different career options before graduation.
While growing up, Finney's father, then a member of the Alaska Army National Guard, had become a bush pilot and even had his own plane. Finney shared that her father planted the idea of her getting her aircraft structures and power plant license in her head.
"My dad came up to me one day after school," she said. "He said to me, 'Cody! I know what you should be when you grow up. You should be an aircraft mechanic and get your A&P license, so I won't have to pay anyone to do my annuals."
Finney said she laughed it off at first, but after a while realized she wanted to follow in her father's footsteps and join the military. Heeding her father's advice, she enlisted in the Alaska Air National Guard in 2006 and became an aircraft mechanic, "unfortunately for my dad, the Cessna and the KC-135 are slightly different," she said.
Finney began her career as a crew chief on the KC-135R Stratotanker, spending a few months working on the unit's alert jet. Shortly after, an opportunity presented itself for her to join Phase Dock as an aircraft mechanic and this became her home for the next 10 years.
In 2017 she moved into her current position with the Maintenance Operations Center as an aircraft production controller.
"Growing up, I never would have imagined being where I am today," she said. "In what seems like a short 13 years here I have traveled all over the world, seen many impressive things and I have met some pretty incredible people."
Finney credited her family for being the main reason she stays.
"My amazing and supportive husband, Master Sgt. Sean Finney, who is also a member of the 168th Maintenance Group, our daughters Eden and Eleanor, and last but not least is my handsome boy, Douglas." Douglas is the Finneys' dog, who as Finney put it, "is currently suffering from middle child syndrome."
Finney finished her story to the wing leaders with a memory that has brought her life full circle.
"I remember one day in elementary school we had 'bring your parents' to school day," she said. "I was always so excited to bring my mom and dad to show them off to my friends, I mean they were both firefighters after all. The kids in my class had a million questions for them and a lot of them spent the rest of the day saying, "I'm going to be a firefighter when I grow up."
"So here I am now, striving to set a good example for my girls so maybe if their school ever has 'bring your parents' to school day, they will be as proud as I once was."