Here at Atlas, we are honored to serve the U.S. military as the largest provider of their passenger and cargo airlift and are proud to count so many of our colleagues as veterans. Today, we shine a spotlight on a few of our veteran colleagues and their contributions the U.S. Armed Forces as part of the ongoing Atlas Salute to Service series.
Megan Matthews, Senior Passenger Service Representative (SPSR). Atlas Employee since 2018.
Coming from a military family inspired Megan to serve. On one side of her family was her grandfather, who served in the Marines and on the other side were her grandfather and grandmother who met while both were in the Army.
Megan enlisted in the Air Force as a junior in high school and left for basic training only 12 days after graduation. Her rank was Senior Airman and her job was a C-17 Loadmaster with the 6th Airlift Squadron (6AS), stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Megan served from 2007 to 2013.
“Serving as a Loadmaster in the military exposed me to the type of work I currently do with Atlas as a SPSR,” said Megan. “Additionally, the military helped developed my skills in leadership, adaptability and work ethic that I strive to use every day to ensure the success of every Atlas flight.”
During her time in the Air Force, Megan had the opportunity to fly combat missions, earning air medals for Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation New Dawn. She is proud that she was able to airlift millions of pounds of essential equipment to troops on the ground.
“I appreciate the opportunities and support given to veterans and those who continue their military service here at Atlas,” said Megan. “It can be difficult for veterans to transition back to civilian life, and I appreciate that Atlas is committed to helping us establish new careers in this next chapter.”
Jo Houston, Quality Assurance Auditor/Ramp Maintenance. Atlas Employee since 2020.
Jo Houston served as a Petty Officer, Second Class in the United States Naval Reserve from 2001 to 2010, stationed at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (JRB) in Belle Chasse Louisiana and Andrews Air Force Base, Camp Springs, Maryland.
Jo’s interest in joining the military comes from growing up in a family where “service is stressed.” Her mother was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, and she has many uncles, cousins and aunts who have served and retired from the Army.
“Being a part of the military taught me how to function independently and as a member of a collective,” said Jo. “I think a good deal of my deductive reasoning is due to my military training. I learned to lead with skill and not force or fear, which makes me an effective auditor. I have found that most people want to work with me and know that any issues disclosed during an audit will not be met with judgment and punishment.”
Jo’s proudest moment happened during an extraction mission when she was working for the military as a civilian.
“As a part of Special Forces, it gave me pride to know that I was helping our members during some of their most trying times,” said Jo. “My proudest memories on duty were meeting General Colin Power when he was Secretary of Defense and George and Laura Bush as President and First Lady.”
Jo says it makes her happy to know she works with so many veterans. “We swap stories and draw on career experiences to help us with our daily routines. I’m proud of the fact that Atlas moves the military and provides a career path for so many after they transition from the military.”
Silas Simone, 747 Captain. Atlas Employee since 2015.
Major Silas Simone began his military career in 2001 as an F-16 crew chief in the Minnesota and Ohio Air National Guard (ANG). He was commissioned through the Academy of Military Science (AMS). He was also a C-130 pilot during his time in the military.
His flying assignments included the Alaska and Delaware ANG, and his staff assignment was at the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C. in Air Operations as a mobility airlift programmer, and then as a tactical airlift functional manager.
During his military career, Major Simone supported numerous flying deployments, including Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and Inherent Resolve.
Major Simone comes from a family with strong military ties. His wife is an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and is currently serving as a force support squadron commander. Additionally, his father was in the Army, and his grandfather was in the Navy.
“The inherent discipline and training rigor I developed over my 20-year military career has transferred into my civilian career quite well,” said Major Simone. “International travel, deployments, long days and extensive studying of this craft has set me up for success as an International Part 121 Pilot, along with the professionalism and high demands this job requires.”
Major Simone said that his most memorable moments are always the return from deployments when he can embrace his wife and kids. His proudest moment was providing humanitarian efforts to refugees from war-torn countries through C-130 Airdrops.
“The direct human impact at the time was raw and visible, and we knew that at least for that moment we helped,” said Major Simone, who retired from the military on January 1, 2022.
Speaking about how Atlas employs so many members of the military, Major Simone says, “It shows that the Company values service members and what kind of human capital, skills, leadership and dedication service members can bring to Atlas to further advance its workforce.”
Victor Andres Castillo, Training Records Administrator. Atlas Employee since 2022.
Although he has only been with Atlas for eight months, Victor feels like he has been with the Company for years via his military career.
“Being on deployments and/or other military orders, Atlas Air was my main means of transportation taking us from base to base,” said Victor. “The customer service experience from both the pilots and the ground crew made for a remarkable experience.”
In July 2010, Victor enlisted in the Security Forces (Military Police), where he served for ten years. He shared that being part of the military greatly helped him with
his career at Atlas. Through the military, he was able to build his character — becoming resilient, loyal, adaptable — and find ways to both identify and solve problems, all skills that have helped him in his current position.
“Military training builds strong character, providing tools to show empathy toward others, push through adversity and commit to the mission of the organization.”
Victor has many memorable moments from proudly serving his country. While “some are good, some are bad and some are in-between,” Victor said. “Serving in the Armed Forces has been a privilege and honor. It is the greatest feeling in the world to have served, and I have no regrets.”
Accomplishing Basic Military Training (BMT) and Tech School was his most memorable, challenging and rewarding experience.
“I enlisted in the Armed Forces later than most, and my fellow trainees jokingly referred to me as ‘grandpa.’ All the other trainees were in their late teens and they looked up to me. I was their inspiration, their shoulder to cry on or a fellow trainee who always had their back. It was tough to withstand Physical Training (PT) not being in as good shape as the teenagers. However, because of my determination, resiliency and the ability to endure pain, I finished within the top five of my class and won the outstanding performance award.
“Atlas Air has given me an opportunity to share my life and background with my team members and the organization,” said Victor. “It is an honor to be part of a well-rounded organization, showing commitment and pride for our employees who wear and have worn the uniform. It is an honor to be part of the Atlas Air team!”
Carleen A. Ybarra, Director Employee Relations & Work Force Solutions. Atlas Employee since 2021.
Carleen has been in the US Army Reserves since 1997 and presently serves as the Command Sergeant Major for a drill sergeant unit. In 2000, she deployed to Kosovo in support of NATO’s peacekeeping mission. In 2004, she deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and took part in multiple training missions.
Carleen is a first generation American and the first generation of her family to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces and did so along with her cousin.
“We set the standard for the next generation of our family,” said Carleen. “There are now six members of my family who are currently serving or have proudly served.”
Carleen shares that the Army’s values, which include loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage, are paramount in her role in Human Resources.
“By embodying these core values, I can execute my job for Atlas without moral or personal conflict. Both my leader and the Company expect the same out of me,” said Carleen.
When reflecting on her military career, Carleen said that she feels many moments of pride including seeing soldiers that she has coached, mentored and developed receive promotions.
She also refers to other proud moments, which happened while she was stationed overseas.
“A couple of years into my enlistment, I deployed to Kosovo shortly after the NATO bombing campaign,” said Carleen. “As a civil affairs operator, I was able to directly impact the rebuilding of the city of Urosevac/Ferizaj coordinating and supporting humanitarian assistance relief efforts and helping with the reconstruction of schools and other government-run infrastructure.”
One of Carleen’s greatest feelings of personal accomplishment, and her proudest moment as an American soldier, was the impact she had on the Albanian, Serbian and Gypsy women.
“These women saw me, a woman with a job, authority, and freedom of speech and movement,” said Carleen. “I will never forget how excited they were (as was I) to witness that. Before my tour ended these women were learning how to drive.”
About working at Atlas, Carleen shares a memory from her time in the Armed Forces.
“I am proud to work for a company that supports our military,” said Carleen. “I remember the many trips that I took to Green Ramp at Pope Air Force Base at the onset of the War on Terror and seeing my friends board Atlas Air planes. Sometimes it is lost on the average American the service and sacrifice that service members make every day. When companies such as ours stand up for and stand by those who serve, it sends a message to the rest of our country that we will not be forgotten. Working here and supporting the mission of our airline feels as though I’m giving back.”