The Air Force emphasizes the importance of cultivating the four pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness; physical, mental, social and spiritual.
Tech. Sgt. Tony Tirado, communications system operator with the 4th Space Operations Squadron, uses woodworking as a way to not only satisfy this, but also to make connections within the local community.
“When life throws me a curve ball or I’m struggling with over analyzing a situation or problem, nothing helps me relax and concentrate better than woodworking,” Tirado said. “From design creation, building, to finishing, every aspect of woodworking serves a purpose for me.”
This has led into the creation of a business and a Facebook page, boasting 216 members and growing.
“I started it (the Facebook page) because when I came here, I was looking for a local woodworking group on Facebook and couldn’t find any,” he said. “So I decided to create one for local woodworkers to ask and offer assistance to one another, borrow tools (a lot of people have borrowed my tools), ask for opinions on their projects, brag about something awesome they made and all things in between.”
These opportunities have led him to paths with members in the Front Range military community as well. Chief Master Sgt. Marty Rush, chief enlisted manager with Air Force Space Command Public Affairs is a prime example.
“Tirado started Colorado Springs Woodworking and from the minute I started posting on the site, Tirado was always providing encouragement and support,” Rush said. “He even offers to loan his own tools out to help people with their projects. I was working on a shadow box for my boss who was retiring and needed a biscuit joiner, but wasn’t sure I would use one frequently enough to warrant buying one. Tirado, without even knowing me, offered to let me borrow his.”
According to Rush, Tirado has one of the most giving and supportive attitudes of anyone he has ever met in his Air Force career.
“I’ve never seen Tony in a bad mood,” Rush said. “I’ve never heard him say no. Anytime I’ve reached out for help whether it’s for advice, math calculations (yes, he does that too), or to borrow a tool, he’s never too busy and he always takes time to help you through a project. There’s a certain level of support and friendship that comes with uniting with folks with like interests on a Facebook group, but Tony Tirado takes that to a whole different level.”
According to Tirado, his woodworking journey started about six years ago with his wife wanting a barnyard style table.
“The table she wanted, to our dismay, ran thousands of dollars and I simply could not accept that,” he said. “After pondering a bit and going over the details of how it looked like it was made, I decided to approach my wife with the idea of me making one instead. Once Christmas came, I was surprised with my first circular saw and saw horses and that was my motivation to finally give the table a go. Being sober for years at that point, I’ve always struggled to find healthy hobbies that I could stick with. I’d jump from one thing to another to stay busy but nothing really stuck until I started making that table.”
It was at this point he said he found his calling. Having to learn from his mistakes the hard way with woodworking, he soon started to use woodworking as a tool to mentor his subordinates and peers.
“I’d offer to teach and help them build whatever they desired for free so long as they didn’t drink alcohol and enjoyed themselves,” Tirado said. “I quickly learned how ideal of a setting a garage is for learning how a person has truly been.”
“Defensive guards are let down and you can just talk while working together to make something. Through these experiences I’ve learned just how important it is to know your people and to truly care about them. It’s given me invaluable insight into growing into a transformational leader all while creating and reinforcing workplace relationships and not to mention making cool things,” he said.
Although Tirado uses woodworking as a way to maintain his resilience, connect with the community and mentor Airmen, he says his love and pride for the Air Force cannot be overstated.
“I’m a career non-commissioned officer through and through and have been through a gauntlet of challenges,” he said. “My goal is to use my woodworking to show how much each person is appreciated and to grow them as our future leaders. There’s always time to make something and hope that my hands and dedication to woodworking and mentoring will show them just how thankful I am for them and that they truly matter.”