From Jet Seat to Cyber Operations - Maryland Air National Guard Promotes First Hispanic Airman to Brigadier General

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Chris Schepers
  • 175th Wing

On August 1st 2021, The Maryland Air National Guard promoted a Hispanic Airman to the rank of brigadier general, a historic first for the state. U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Victor R. Macias, the current Deputy Commanding General, Cyber National Mission Force, United States Cyber Command and a member of the National Guard Bureau, continues to serve in pursuit of our highest national security priorities.

The path leading General Macias to his current role has spanned across multiple military branches in different statuses and with multiple career field changes, each of which Macias credits for a full breadth of experience. His perspective and perseverance were instilled in him from a very young age.

Where it all Started

Macias, a first-generation American, was raised in the industrious Back of the Yards neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. He credits his parents, who became naturalized American citizens in the early 1970’s, with providing the steady foundation that has helped him serve successfully.

His father, Victor, was a warehouse worker when Macias was younger and subsequently worked over 35 years as a licensed plumber all across the greater Chicago area, installing critical infrastructure on major projects which enabled economic vitality for countless businesses in the region. His mother, Julia, was employed as a bilingual secretary for a bank, then multiple hospital systems before transitioning to work for Chicago Public Schools and retiring in 2013 as an administrative coordinator to the V.P. of Procurement for the Chicago Transit Authority. Despite growing up in a tough, industrial neighborhood, his parents helped keep Macias and his two siblings grounded with the principles they demonstrated for their children daily.

“Growing up, my parents started their day long before the sun came up, made sure my siblings and I had what we needed for the day, understood what was expected of us, and later returned home long after the sun had set. Everyone pulled their weight. Our family did not know any other way. I credit this environment for giving me the confidence to be independent from a very young age. I just never worried about it, I knew that when push came to shove in any situation, I knew "how to figure it out",” said Macias. “In addition to hard work and integrity, fairness was something that was always very important to my parents, whether we were dealing with our family, neighbors, or at school there was a focus on making sure that we were being fair to everybody. Mutual respect was always important.”

Although nobody in Macias’ family served in the military, his interest in military service began at an early age while visiting family members in Houston, Texas. They were driving outside of Ellington Air Force Base when Macias felt the car shake, looked out of the window and saw an F-14 Tomcat landing on the runway.

After running a few errands, he and his family returned to Ellington AFB. They stood outside of the perimeter fence and watched as the supersonic fighter was refueled. Macias stood, watching, with his fingers grasping the chain link fence when suddenly one of the aircrew walked up to him.

“Hey, do you want to come see the jet?” asked one of the pilots.

For the next 15 minutes Macias was able to see the fighter jet up close.

“I was provided a full tour of the jet from its pointy nose to weapons stations, afterburners, and tail hook,” explained Macias. “This amazing tour coupled with the Chicago airshow my parents had taken us to made it clear to me this is what I wanted to do.”

Macias started researching, speaking with friends, and meeting with counselors to figure out how to become a military officer and pursue flying fighters.

“When I asked about attending a service academy, my guidance counselor responded with a chuckle and said, ‘A service academy? Nobody from this school goes to a service academy'," said Macias. “I never told my parents that story and thank goodness I believed enough in my dream to not be distracted from it by anyone. I learned about the possibility of attending a service academy as a means to get a four-year college degree and then follow on access to flight school. I mailed a request for an admissions package to each of the service academies. I studied each with complete amazement and literally saw a whole world unfolding before me as I turned each page. The intrigue of an aircraft carrier operating in the middle of the ocean launching jets, striking targets from the sea, and then landing in pitching seas at night captured my attention.”

Military Service Part I

Upon graduation from high school, Macias began the journey to make his dream a reality. He earned an appointment to the United States Naval Academy and traveled to Annapolis, Maryland. Receiving his commission as an officer in the U.S. Navy was not easy. He credits his parents with his ability to stay focused and realize every obstacle or task in front of him served a purpose.

“As I went through different challenges over those four years, I always knew that there had to be a reason why I was going through what I was experiencing,” explained Macias. “I knew it was all part of my journey, lessons I needed to learn to get where I wanted to be. The Naval Academy was so inspirational, it truly changed my life. Fortunately for me, as I experienced challenges, I had the tremendous support of my parents, they always found ways to encourage me and never stood in the way of my dreams.”

After graduation from the Naval Academy and flight, school Macias earned his wings and would finally begin flying in the F-14 Tomcat he had dreamed of so many years prior. He was assigned to The Grim Reapers of Fighter Squadron One Zero One at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

After completing his training, Macias deployed numerous times while assigned to Fighter Squadron Eleven. While aboard the USS John C. Stennis and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, he flew missions over Iraq, enforced the no-fly zone in Operation Southern Watch and also experienced flying in the Mediterranean. He accumulated in excess of 1,200 flying hours in the F-14 and over 350 day/night aircraft carrier landings throughout his almost decade long flying career.

His service in the Navy ended suddenly while assigned to Fighter Wing Atlantic, after an injury suffered during a car accident left him unqualified for flying ejection seats. Macias decided to leave the military.

“It was crushingly disappointing, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my military service because everything came to such an abrupt change,” said Macias. “My active obligation of service was up just a couple months prior so I thought this might be a good chance to step away and reevaluate.”

Macias had an interest in finance so he connected with some Navy friends who had recently transitioned to the civilian sector. They were doing similar work in the career field and so after several months of classes and licensing exams, Macias relocated to Maryland, was credentialed in the financial industry and started employment with a major brokerage firm in Downtown Baltimore.

Military Service Part II

Only after a couple of years as a civilian, Macias felt the call to serve again so he enlisted part-time in the Navy Reserve in 2005, while still working in the finance sector.

“After two years of no longer serving, I felt strongly that something was missing. It was clear, my passion was military service and I needed to go back,” explained Macias.

Macias sought change for his full-time civilian employment as well and was hired as Director of Legislative Affairs for the Maryland National Guard by U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Bruce Tuxill, the adjutant general for Maryland at the time.

“To put it bluntly, I knew within just a few minutes of meeting General Tuxill, there was zero chance I was going anywhere but to work for him and in service to the members of the National Guard," said Macias. "The military culture of hard work, camaraderie, honor, and of service before self, that’s what I wanted to go back to. It was obvious General Tuxill was the exact leader that makes the military the tremendous place we want to serve.”

Concurrently, Macias went on to transfer to the Maryland Air National Guard in his part-time status.

Over those early drill weekends, Macias was helping shape the cyber mission while assigned to the newly formed 175th Information Operations Squadron, concurrently serving at both Fort Meade and Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River, Maryland. Macias returned to full-time military status in 2008.

“At that time there was no U.S. Cyber Command so we were organized in mission sectors conducting operational activities for the only organization at Ft. Meade at the time, the National Security Agency,” explained Macias. At that time the Maryland Air National Guard was focused primarily on intelligence and analysis activities but quickly realized their added benefit to the mission was going to be focused on taking the fight to the enemy in an offensive cyber capacity.

Macias knew as the mission evolved at the Wing they could offer more to the Air Force and beyond. The United States Cyber Command was stood up in 2010 and Macias’ leaders along with he and his teammates focused on how they could bring their diverse high-end skills to the Department of Defense cyber team.

“What we really tried to focus on was capitalizing on what made us unique – where we could add value in a way that was complementary to what others were doing,” said Macias. “Our members had full-time civilian jobs in really amazing places, so when we brought them in to provide surge capacity, we wanted it to be in places that optimized our national security. That remains true today.”

Those early decisions laid the groundwork for today’s 175th Cyberspace Operations Group structure. It went from one cyber squadron to four. The 175th Wing added two offensive squadrons, a defensive squadron, and a unit focused on training and international engagement, all under a new 175th Cyber Operations Group O-6 structure, which Macias would later command.

“In those early years, we were focused on transitioning our mission to align with U.S. Cyber Command as opposed to the broader set of intelligence community activities,” explained Macias. “So if the nation were to go into conflict, we would be able to provide surge capacity where it was needed in both offensive and defensive cyber operations.”

Macias attributes the success of the current 175th Cyberspace Operations Group to the many selfless members that are “the true experts” and not senior leaders like himself.

“Cyber Operations remains a team sport. The mission set is so diverse that success hinges on the entire team. It’s a true meritocracy. We are fortunate to serve alongside our nation’s most dedicated and selfless experts," said Macias. "The men and women that serve our nation, regardless of service, mission, active duty, National Guard, Reserve, civilians, and contractors – are all selfless heroes underpinned by supportive families, employers, and co-workers second to none.”

Currently, Macias serves as the deputy commanding general of the Cyber National Mission Force, a force several thousand strong conducting global operations.

“We’re working across the interagency with every department of the U.S. government, every component of the United States military, all of the geographic combatant commanders, industry, our foreign partners and allies, and our partnership with the National Security Agency, to bring the entire community together to meet our most demanding national security priorities through both offensive and defensive operations,” said Macias.

Macias’ career is a testament to his perseverance and the lessons instilled in him by his parents. From flying off aircraft carriers in the F-14 Tomcat, to the finance industry, legislative liaison, and finally to full-spectrum global cyberspace operations, Macias has always been grounded in the values taught by his parents since his youth.

Macias hopes all youth will consider service to our nation. In addition to all of the operational experiences, the military afforded Macias a lifetime of learning which has included multiple graduate degrees and completion of executive development programs at our nation’s top business schools and Ivy League universities. Recently, Macias’ own sons began expressing an interest in military aviation.

“I’ve tried to share both the tremendous excitement and sacrifice that comes with military service. I can see in the eyes of my two sons that they have been bitten by the military aviation bug. Whether they ultimately get to serve or not is yet to be determined but it is an honor to think they may get to share in some of the experiences that come with service to our nation," expressed Macias. "Like any parent, we want to see our children flourish and live happy lives.”

Macias stated he looks forward to watching his children and his sibling’s children set off on their journeys. “We are very proud of each of them”.

When asked to highlight favorite memories of his military service to share with the next generation, Macias responded, “Wow, the opportunities have been endless. My family, friends, and all the people I’ve had the pleasure to serve alongside have made the experience incredible. The military really has been an extension of the family atmosphere I grew up in. We’ve experienced births, promotions, exhilarating missions, sacrifice, camaraderie, and unfortunately loss. As for experiences that might inspire youth to consider military service, I remember each of the following amazing events - the first time I marched on the parade deck at the Naval Academy, the amazing sheer power of my first jet flight, the first time I got to go supersonic, the first time I felt a bomb release from our jet, the first time I watched a missile launch off the wing, the tremendous G-forces and skill of dogfighting, launching off an aircraft carrier into the absolute darkness of a moonless night, landing on a carrier at sea off the coast of dozens of countries around the globe, visiting with countless numbers of national leaders over the years, and getting to experience all that the world of cyberspace operations has afforded me for the past 15 years both defensively and offensively – and now the chance to continue to serve at this level - truly incredible. Each of these experiences has been amazing and each took a whole team of people to make them possible. In the end, the teammates I’ve had the pleasure to serve alongside enriched the experience and matter most. I owe each of them and my family gratitude. I never could have served our nation without both sets of my grandparents setting out on their journey so many years ago and without the good fortune of my parents, wife, and children supporting my dream of military service. It’s been an honor to serve our nation and given the chance, I’d do it all again.”