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Town Supervisor, Retired Cop, Inspires 106th Rescue Wing Air Guardsmen During National Hispanic Heritage Month Talk

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sean Madden
  • 106th Rescue Wing

Dr. Yvette Aguiar, supervisor of the Town of Riverhead and retired New York police officer, told guard Airmen she overcame a language barrier to achieve her “American Dream” during a talk to members of the 106th Rescue Wing on Sept. 10, 2023.

Aguiar, who also serves as Police Commissioner, spoke at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in observation of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Aguiar was elected Town Supervisor in 2019 and took office in January 2020. Serving two terms, she guided Riverhead through the COVID-19 pandemic as Supervisor and Police Commissioner.

Aguiar spoke of her path to public office, which included a career in the New York City Police Department.

While in the department, she helped establish the NYPD’s anti-terrorism task force after 9/11. Upon retiring as a Detective Sergeant, she went on to earn a doctoral degree in Homeland Security.

Getting there was not easy, she said.

“Both of my parents were born in Puerto Rico and moved to the Bronx,” Aguiar said. “When I started school, I didn’t speak any English.”

With each major step in Aguiar’s life, she had doubts because of the language barrier and a lack of exposure to anyone who tried doing what she was attempting, Aguiar explained.

Motivated by the desire to achieve her own version of the “American Dream,” Aguiar said, she pressed through the obstacles she faced and overcame any doubts.

The 106th Rescue Wing regularly invites guest speakers who can share valuable lessons learned on the way to great achievements, said Col. Shawn Fitzgerald, the wing commander.

“It’s important to have guests the wing can relate to, we have several members who have faced similar challenges as Dr. Aguiar, in their lives,” Fitzgerald said.

It’s good for Airmen to see and interact with someone who faced those challenges and succeeded,” he added.

Aguiar said she was interested in personally connecting with Airmen who could benefit from her experience.

“You open up people’s eyes and let them know there was someone before you, who went through the same thing,” Aguiar said. “Talking about it is good, but once you meet that person and ask questions — that’s what’s most impactful.”

Airman 1st Class Karen Diaz said she could relate to Aguiar’s struggles on two fronts.

“I was very interested in the fact she didn’t know the language and eventually got to where she is and her PhD,” said Diaz a logistic and planning specialist assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing who is also a member of the NYPD. “I was born here, but my first language was Spanish so there’s a connection, it’s inspiring.”

Diaz also said she appreciated the efforts of the unit to bring speakers like Aguiar on base for the opportunity to meet them.

“It shows that the unit cares,” said Diaz. “We’re not only hearing their stories, we’re also connecting to them. It creates a network as well.”

The 106th Rescue Wing, based at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, New York, operates and maintains the HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue aircraft, and the HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter. The 106th RQW is home to a special warfare squadron with pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, specializing in rescue and recovery, and deploys for domestic and overseas operations.