Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Profile: Staff Sgt. William Utsumi

  • Published
  • By Grant Okubo
  • 349 Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

This May, in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the 349th Air Mobility Wing spotlights one of our many amazing Reserve Citizen Airmen at Travis AFB.

A San Francisco Bay area native, Staff Sgt. William Utsumi, a medical technician with the 349th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, answered the call to serve early on.

"Growing up, I always wanted to be in the military," said Utsumi. "I wanted to be part of something bigger and give back. I always wanted to help people but never thought I'd be in the medical field. I never thought I was smart enough or had the aptitude to be anywhere near medicine."

There were a few challenges initially, which Utsumi had to overcome, starting with not finishing high school. He eventually earned his GED and experienced homelessness for a short time.

Resilient through earlier life challenges, Utsumi moved forward and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He trained to become a combat medic in 2013 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. After finishing his enlistment, Utsumi returned to California in October 2017 and currently continues in the medical field as a simulation operator at the David Grant Medical Center at Travis, which he started in June 2021.

After separating from active duty, Utsumi, still wanting to serve, joined the Air Force Reserves after discussing his options with his family to include a few members with ties to the wing. Utsumi joined the 349th AMW in Oct. 2017 and has definitely made an impact during his service in the wing.

Senior enlisted leader for the 349th Medical Group, Chief Master Sgt. Howard Dixon said Utsumi and Captain Monica Flores, 349th ASTS, have been instrumental in helping roll out the Tactical Combat Casualty Care program. 

"He’s the lead personnel when it comes to TCCC for the entire Medical Group.” said Dixon. "Initially, when I presented it to him and his counterpart, I told them that we need to get after this and ensure that across-the-board all our medical personnel are taken care of and (asked) how can we get them all the necessary training that they need to be ready, and he just took the reins and moved forward. I specifically wanted him to focus on the medical group personnel and really provide the instruction to the other groups for the all-servicemember initiative. He’s simply been exceptional when it comes to just taking care of the overall tasking.”

Additionally, Utsumi has also been instrumental with helping provide TCCC training outside the wing, said Dixon.

When asked to describe Utsumi, Dixon characterized him as calm under pressure, knowledgeable and determined.

"Staff Sgt. Utsumi is a great example of the multi-capable airmen," said Dixon. "If I had to deploy with a member, I would be confident he had my back. I'm just thrilled to be his chief."

While his service in the medical field has always been at the forefront, Utsumi said he prides himself on his work to help support unit morale.

"I took on a role in the morale program at my squadron where we create a gift for new parents in the squadron," said Utsumi, a father of two daughters. "It's called baby orders, and it's just a play on words, where we present a certificate of appreciation for new parents from the squadron and leadership, showing that we care. When I came to the Reserves in 2017, I adopted this program for the Air Force based on my time in the Army. And whenever I meet new people, it always comes up."

Through his persistence and perseverance, Utsumi has made the most of his career in the military and as a medical professional. From humble beginnings as a high-school drop-out and eventually working himself up the ranks towards a critical role in training and molding other military medical professionals, he is continually helping transform the organization.

"I'm looking to pass on the knowledge, leadership and provide mentorship and guidance to younger airmen," said Utsumi. "I'm always looking to pass on the knowledge of trauma medicine and TCCC to anyone willing to listen, but I also want to develop our TCCC program to be the best throughout the DOD."