First enlisted Guardian teaches at the Air Force Academy

  • Published
  • By Capt. Charles Rivezzo
  • Space Training and Readiness Command Public Affairs

U.S. Space Force Master Sgt. Patrick Pineda's journey to the lectern at the U.S. Air Force Academy is as remarkable as it is groundbreaking.

His tenure marks a significant milestone as the first enlisted Guardian teaching at the Academy, infusing a traditionally officer and civilian-dominated faculty with his unique insights.

Pineda brings over ten years of experience as an Intelligence Analyst in both the Air Force and Space Force. His recent master's degree in Strategic Intelligence, with a Russian focus from the National Intelligence University, paved his way to academia. 
In his role within the Military and Strategic Studies department, Pineda educates cadets on the intricacies of joint force doctrine, strategic theory and theorists, and the roles and capabilities of each service branch. 
His course, MSS 251, gives cadets a baseline understanding of the national security apparatus, how it functions, and how the U.S. government executes its instruments of power across the spectrum of conflict. 
Beyond curriculum development and classroom instruction, Pineda explained that his teaching philosophy emphasizes the tangible application of military concepts. 
“What we teach is not just academic; it’s about preparing these future officers to think critically and strategically,” Pineda said. “We strive for cadets to understand that the world that we are entering is not the same as the last 20 years. The United States is entering an era of Great Power Competition, and they need to understand what’s at stake for the nation.”

This approach ensures that cadets not only learn strategic concepts but also understand their practical applications in real-world scenarios.

Pineda said that he is equally as dedicated to the relational aspects of his role, guiding cadets through their formative years at the Academy—from freshman cadets barely acquainted with military acumen to well-informed, strategic thinkers ready to take on future challenges.

He added that he finds it especially gratifying to observe their evolution. 
“Seeing the growth in cadets from when they first walk into my classroom, knowing little about the military structure, to when they leave, speaking our lingo and understanding the baseline of Western strategic thinking, joint doctrine, and the functions and instruments of power the U.S. has at its disposal is incredibly rewarding.” 
Integrating Space Force Expertise into Academy Curriculum 
As the sole enlisted Guardian instructor, Pineda is uniquely positioned to inject Space Force knowledge and ethos into the Academy's curriculum. His experience within the Space Force, albeit limited, provides cadets with a greater understanding of the newest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“I often find myself answering cadet questions about the Space Force, guiding those interested in commissioning into this new service, and clarifying how its capabilities integrate into the broader joint force,” Pineda said. 
Through Pineda’s efforts, the Academy not only prepares cadets for traditional Air Force roles but also imparts insights into the Space Force's capabilities, enhancing their understanding of joint force dynamics, irrespective of the service branch they choose. 
Setting a Precedent for Enlisted Guardians 
Being the first enlisted Guardian to teach at the Academy, Pineda said he hopes to pave the way for future enlisted Guardian educators. 
“Enlisted applicants who are eager to pursue a teaching role at the Academy should obtain a degree in a field that aligns with the academic courses taught here,” Pineda explained. “Additionally, they should demonstrate a robust track record of job performance and, ideally, gain hands-on experience in their degree-related field.” 
He added, “The selection board prioritizes candidates with a proven history of leading teams, possessing the appropriate degree, and showcasing relevant field experience in their desired teaching area.”