Guy with the guns takes top honor

Brig. Gen. James Melin (left), 452nd AMW Commander at March Air Reserve Base, presents the AFRC Outstanding Weapons Safety Civilian of the Year award to Vic Flores. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amy Abbott, 452 AMW/PA)

Brig. Gen. James Melin (left), 452nd AMW Commander at March Air Reserve Base, presents the AFRC Outstanding Weapons Safety Civilian of the Year award to Vic Flores. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amy Abbott, 452 AMW/PA)

Vic Flores (right) observes as Master Sgt. Derrick Adkins, 452nd Security Forces armory noncommissioned officer in charge at March Air Reserve Base, demonstrates clearing procedures on one of the M240B machine guns in the inventory. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amy Abbott, 452 AMW/PA)

Vic Flores (right) observes as Master Sgt. Derrick Adkins, 452nd Security Forces armory noncommissioned officer in charge at March Air Reserve Base, demonstrates clearing procedures on one of the M240B machine guns in the inventory. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amy Abbott, 452 AMW/PA)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- "We've got claymore mines. We've got grenades, grenade launchers, explosives and missiles - just a little bit of everything." 

Being the 452nd Air Mobility Wing's weapons safety manager, that "little bit of everything" falls right on Vic Flores' shoulders. 

"I'm in charge of anything that has to do with weapons and explosives on base. As the overall manager, I'm appointed as the commander's representative to take care of all those issues that might require somewhat of an expert to deal with." 

As overwhelming as the job description may sound, Mr. Flores has proved to be more than up to the task. He was just named Outstanding Weapons Safety Civilian of the Year for all of Air Force Reserve Command. 

"We have one of the best, if not the best, programs in the United States Air Force and
that needs to be recognized -Vic leads that program so, he needs to be recognized," said Maj. Carl Schulte, 452nd AMW chief of safety, who nominated Mr. Flores for the award. 

Sitting at his desk, with a photograph of his three sons on one side and a few dummy grenades on the other, Mr. Flores talks about his career in explosives, one he took because he is what he calls "a people person." Going into a career in munitions because you're a people person can seem like a bit of an oxymoron, but to Mr. Flores,
it all made sense. 

In 1981, he joined the Air Force as an airman basic working with aircraft armament systems. His career spanned over many years and countries giving him the opportunity to work with F4's, F16's, B52's and teach at the schoolhouse. 

He credits his fulfilling career to having the sense enough to take opportunities as they arise and the constant support and strength of the people around him. 

"I knew the opportunity was there but it was a long shot, you've got to have timing," said Mr. Flores. "When the opportunity comes along and you have the support of a lot of folks around you, that kind of puts you in your position. I've been fortunate to be working with a lot of good folks." 

Those "good folks" have spanned across the globe. Over his career, Mr. Flores has made friends and built connections with people throughout his travels to places like Croatia, Turkey and Da Huran in Saudi Arabia, where he was stationed for a while during Operation Desert Storm. 

His active duty career ended just Guy with the guns takes top honor two years ago while stationed in Italy. From there, he came to March. 

"When my family and I retired out of Italy, I told everybody, 'Hey, I'm not quitting the Air Force; I'm just changing hats.' I'm going from a blue-suiter to, I don't know what kind of suit I'm wearing now," he said, laughing as he looked down at his slacks and polo shirt ... "civilian suit." 

Settled down into his new position and base, Mr. Flores may be out of his camouflaged uniform, but not out of his element. He continues to serve his country and remain, according to his colleagues, a step above the rest. 

"Vic happens to be a cut or two above the crowd here and it shows daily," said Major Schulte. "He gets out, talks to folks, works to understand everyone's side of an issue and researches the technical data and other guidance. Once he's got the data, he's very good about working to draw all the players to a good position." 

On Wednesday, Mr. Flores was recognized by 452nd Air Mobility Wing Commander Brig. Gen. James Melin, for having earned the distinction of being named the Outstanding Weapons Safety Civilian of the Year. 

But to the man behind all the weapons, this was just icing on the cake. Before his retirement, he had been looking for a job "just like this." 

Though he admits to watching troops board aircrafts to far off destinations and a bit of him misses that, he says he is perfectly happy with his transition and calls this new chapter in his life, "a breath of fresh air."