Andrew Aquino knows how critical his new job is as a Fullerton Police Department dispatcher.
“It all starts with a phone call for help,” Aquino said. “The dispatcher is responsible for what you need and how fast you need it. It definitely has its huge stress moments.”
But being a former Marine Corp motor transport officer, who served three tours in Iraq, it’s a safe bet that Aquino can handle stressful moments.
“I drove trucks all over Iraq,” he said. “They needed guys like me to go nonstop.”
Aquino joined the Marines in 2004 and hauled troops around the Iraqi countryside, drove the ambulatory trucks for injured officers, supported the recovery units and took care of the trucks when the need arose.
His most memorable moment was delivering democratic voting ballots to the people of Fallujah. It was the first time they were able to vote in a free election after years of Saddam Hussein’s iron-fisted rule.
But after eight years of Marine Corps duty, four active and four inactive, Aquino knew it was time to find something new. So he put out feelers to police departments, especially Fullerton, which he knew had a history of hiring military veterans.
His first job with the department took him from military hero to the not-so-loved position of parking control officer.
“The only time people were happy to see us is when someone was blocking their driveway,” he said.
Still, Aquino is thankful for the opportunity and he got a chance to work the entire city at DUI checkpoints and crime scene investigations.
While he was learning on the job, he also attended school, first going to Fullerton College and then UC Irvine, where he graduated on June 14 with a bachelor’s degree in social ecology.
And his commencement speaker that day? Just the president of the United States.
“Having the president at the grad ceremony was awesome as it commemorated the university’s 50 year anniversary,” he said.
Aquino reflected on the five years he spent in parking control and all of his co-workers who were hired the same time as he was and have also been promoted to new jobs.
“We’ve all grown as a group together,” he said. “I’m really happy right now.”
Contract the writer at TDodero@behindthebadgeoc.com