Tomorrow, we’re ringing in two special occasions: Veterans Day and our 94th anniversary as the hometown carrier that introduced commercial air service to the Hawaiian Islands.
As we begin the first day of our 95th year of service, we also recognize the remarkable contributions of the servicemen and women over the decades. Without their skill and commitment, Hawaiian Airlines wouldn’t be the storied company that it is today.
In the second of this two-part blog feature honoring veterans, we’re highlighting two Hawaiian Airlines Veterans Employee Network (HAVEN) members, Sun Min Chun-Dayondon, a flight attendant, and Eric Rice, manager of central baggage claim, who both built their careers in the National Guard and continue to serve while building their careers at Hawaiian Airlines.
Can you share details about your military background and your time in the reserves?
Sun Min Chun-Dayondon: I initially joined the military in 1999 as an enlisted soldier in the Army Signal Corps where I deployed to Iraq and achieved the rank of sergeant, but later became an aviation warrant officer serving as a UH-60M Blackhawk pilot and aviation recruiter for the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard.
Eric Rice: I joined the Army National Guard in 2006 in Oregon as an infantryman (11B). I deployed to Iraq with the Oregon Army National Guard in 2009-2010, filling the traditional infantry role. In 2012, I was selected to Battalion Recon where I served as both a scout and a sniper at various times. I was deployed again in 2014-2015, that time to Afghanistan with Battalion Recon (still in the Oregon Army National Guard) and served as a team leader for a personal security detail that protected high-level NATO and Department of Defense officials.
Following that deployment, I moved to Hawaiʻi and joined the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard as an infantry instructor. I am currently a senior infantry instructor for the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard where I oversee the training of junior infantry leaders in the Army. We primarily teach small unit tactics, leadership principles and theory, advanced rifle and machine gun marksmanship, and several other related skills as part of the Infantry Advanced Leaders Course. In 2016 I was inducted into the Order of Saint Maurice, an honor that recognized significant contribution to the Infantry Corps.
What else were you doing while serving in the National Guard and where does Hawaiian Airlines come into the picture?
Sun Min Chun-Dayondon: In 2015, a fellow UH-60M pilot, who was a manager at Hawaiian Airlines, told me that the company was hiring flight attendants. At that time, I was working full-time as an office manager at an auto body shop while flying for the National Guard part-time. So, I applied and was selected to join one of the 2016 flight attendant classes! I’ve now been a flight attendant for seven years, but much of that time has been spent on military orders.
Eric Rice: I’ve been consistently in the National Guard for the last 17 years, but I’m new to Hawaiian Airlines. I was hired as the manager of central baggage claim just over a year ago. I currently supervise a team of 11 amazing claims agents. Before Hawaiian, I was working as a deputy sheriff for the State of Hawaiʻi and completing a master’s in applied intelligence from Georgetown University. Trying to balance work, family, and the military at the same time was and has, at times, been both challenging and rewarding.
How have the skills you built in the military been helpful during your time at Hawaiian Airlines?
Sun Min Chun-Dayondon: My time in the military has taught me the importance of discipline, punctuality and completing tasks to standard with attention to detail. But the most useful skill the military has instilled in me is teamwork, which aligns with Hawaiian Airlines’ value of lōkahi (unity). Without it, we can’t be successful in accomplishing the mission or achieving our goals.
Eric Rice: My experience in the Army has been immensely valuable in preparing me to be successful at Hawaiian Airlines, and I truly believe the leadership skills I learned both as an infantry leader and instructor have and continue to set me up for success.
How has your experience been at Hawaiian? Are you involved in any veteran-focused initiatives at work or in the community?
Sun Min Chun-Dayondon: I am extremely grateful that Hawaiian Airlines has been such an understanding employer when it comes to being away from work on military orders. Hawaiian Airlines has always been supportive of my military service – even on short notice and regardless of how long I would be away, the excused absence was always followed with “Thank you for your service.”
I am a lifetime member of the National Guard Association of the U.S. (NGAUS) and the Hawaiʻi National Guard Association (HNGA), both of which advocate for military families and improved benefits through legislative action.
"Overall, my time at Hawaiian has been great, but equally important is how it has been as an active National Guard member. Hawaiian’s leadership team has been very accommodating and supportive in fulfilling my monthly and annual obligations."
Eric Rice: I am a member of HAVEN and I try to support as much as I can. I have had to scale back my volunteer, alumni, and veteran activities lately because my wife and I welcomed our first child this past January and I don’t have as much free time as I used to.
Overall, my time at Hawaiian has been great, but equally important is how it has been as an active National Guard member. Hawaiian’s leadership team has been very accommodating and supportive in fulfilling my monthly and annual obligations.
Any advice for veterans or those preparing to transition out of service and interested in joining the airline industry?
Sun Min Chun-Dayondon: Leaving the military is a tough transition; the theme that I often hear echoed is missing the camaraderie, or the sense of purpose from being in a critical role working toward a common objective and achieving the mission together. The airline industry may seem worlds away from the armed forces, but as flight crew, we are like a squad with everyone relying heavily on each other to be responsible for each task.
Particularly at Hawaiian, you will sense that we mālama (care for) our colleagues, much like how you would care for members of your unit. In addition, many of the skills and experience you honed while you were in the military are easily transferrable, so take that wealth of knowledge and join the airline industry! We, too, will take you around the world, but always back home.
Eric Rice: Take advantage of educational opportunities, any opportunity to learn or grow is incredibly valuable. Establish a goal, determine what steps need to be achieved to reach it, and take action to accomplish those steps.