Pilot serves as translator for Guard’s state partnership program

Pfc. Brittany Crocker

PANAMA CITY, Panama - When Capt. Tony Scheidel isn't at the controls of a C-130, he's helping steer Missouri and Panama to a better future as a translator with the State Partnership Program.

Scheidel, who now serves with the 139th Airlift Wing, has been flying since he was 15.

"I used to bail hay and work on my flight instructor's farm in exchange for flight hours" Scheidel said.

He took his first flight with his grandfather when he was barely over 3 years old, Scheidel said. In 1999, he enlisted in the Air National Guard in hopes of someday becoming an Air Force officer like his grandfather, a command-rated pilot.

While he was enlisted, Scheidel served in Japan, Germany, and multiple stateside locations. After he commissioned in 2004, he deployed to Afghanistan, Panama, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and the Northwest Territories in Canada.

Scheidel graduated from the University of Central Missouri in 2003 with a double major in Aviation Technology and Spanish. When the Missouri National Guard caught wind of his Latin American cultural and language skills, Scheidel applied for an open position through Southern Command to work in Panama.

"I quickly understood firsthand that not all Spanish is the same," Scheidel said. "Working in Panama for so long really gave me a handle on some of the slang terms and the regional dialect."

Scheidel served as the traditional commander activities coordinator at the Office of Defense Cooperation and the US Embassy in Panama for one year. There, he served as the point of contact for the Missouri National Guard State Partnership Program. Since then, he has supported multiple State Partnership Missions.

"By living there, I was able to better understand where the Panamanian people are coming from to better address their needs- especially those within the partnership we share with them," Scheidel said.

Most recently, Scheidel served as a translator for Missouri National Guard Soldiers and Airmen visiting Panama for a State Partnership Program Public Affairs event.

Maj. Tamara Spicer, the head of the public affairs team, in Panama said Scheidel was an asset to the mission.

"Capt. Scheidel's experience living in Panama and familiarity with the local culture made our exchange much more effective," Spicer said. "He had first-hand experience with all of the agencies we worked with and had a comprehensive understanding of how the Panamanian Public Forces operate."

Scheidel said he looks forward to working with the program in the future.

"I continue to enjoy working within the State Partnership program," Scheidel said. "It really allows the Missouri National Guard and Panama to learn from each other and create an environment where we can progress together."

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