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Born to be at Dover AFB: Civilian retires after 35 years at hospital where she was born

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stephani Barge
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
When an Airman arrives at Dover Air Force Base, they usually spend two to four years supporting the mission before leaving their civilian counterparts behind for a new assignment. The base’s civilian Airmen maintain continuity at their units and come from many walks of life. And while their respective times at Dover vary, few can boast being born in the same building they work in.

Such is the situation for RaeAnn Rivera, who was born on Dover AFB and recently retired after 35 years of service as the technical and laboratory supervisor at the 436th Medical Group.

“My parents tell me I have more time in service than all of [my family] combined, which makes me blush,” said Rivera. “I never set out to work for the military, it just sort of became a labor of love.”

That labor of love began when Rivera was born on the third floor of the 436th MDG building in 1962. At the time, it was still a hospital.

“Dover was [my dad’s] first operational base and two of us four kids were born here during [my parents’] three-year stay,” explained Rivera. “They’ve talked about their time at Dover our entire [lives]. We never made it back here during the rest of his 20-year career, but [my siblings and I] always felt like it must have been the greatest place ever.”

Rivera’s father, retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Eugene LaJudice, spent most of his career as a fuel systems specialist, climbing into aircraft at locations such as Nellis AFB, Nevada, and Luke AFB, Arizona. His years of service instilled in Rivera a respect and admiration for the military and the nation.

“He gave us our sense of respect for the U.S. and the flag by teaching us how to put the American flag out and stand hand over heart for the Pledge of Allegiance,” Rivera mused.

Her time in college and a move to Texas with her husband was the only period in Rivera’s life when she was not connected to the military, and she missed it greatly.

“I was floundering,” Rivera expressed. “I did not enjoy the civilian world at all. My brother had recently PCS’d to Dover AFB to work at the 436th MDG as an operating room technician, so we decided to help him get settled while we figured out our next step.”

Soon after their move, her brother learned of an open civilian position in the lab, and the rest was history. History that came full circle for Rivera in a unique way.

“When I was hired in 1987, we were still delivering babies on the 3rd floor,” stated Rivera. “I even helped deliver a few with my Airmen over the years, and cut the cord on a C-section for an Airman whose husband was deployed. [I have] so many amazing memories.”

Such memories are fresh in Rivera’s mind as she reflects on her 35 years working in the lab with young service members, contemplating how it impacted them and herself.

“I loved watching young 18-year-olds come in, unsure of themselves, and getting to mentor them into trusting themselves and building up their self esteem.” Rivera enthused.

With a career full of triumphs, challenges, achievements and hard work, Rivera expressed that she looks forward to retirement, but feels proud to have made a difference in the lives of others through her years of dedicated service at Dover AFB.

“When I retired, I received a card from one of the current Airmen,” smiled Rivera. “She ended her message with ‘Ms. Rae, thank you for always having more faith in me than I have in myself’ and that made [the] 35 years worth it.”