Nyvia “Nicole” Ayala serves as the Chief
Human Resource Officer for the Air Force Aid Society. She has more than 25
years of experience working in employee relations and accounting. She received
a B.S. in business management with a human resource management minor from the
University of Phoenix. Nicole started working at HQ AFAS as the Chief Financial
Officer’s administrative assistant. She stayed with the society for 8 years,
rising through the ranks each time. She is currently tasked with developing,
directing, and coordinating policies and training, ensuring compliance, and
assisting in the implementation of the organization’s mission and strategy in
her capacity as a member of the executive leadership team.
As an HR manager for AFAS, Nicole is
responsible for making sure the company fulfills its mission to assist airmen
and their families in times of need. Her work also includes, recruiting,
onboarding, compensation, payroll, benefits, employee engagement, DE&I,
training/development, and retention. She created a virtual onboarding procedure
to address the difficulties everyone encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to give employees a clear set of guidelines and expectations, as well
as accountability measures to help them achieve their professional goals, the
company implemented a performance appraisal system.
AFAS has expanded its employee benefits by
allowing its staff to telework and extending its health and wellness benefits.
Nicole shares, “We want to make AFAS a great place to work.” She
feels proud AFAS is a Companies as Responsible Employers (CARE) Award recipient
for the third year in a row. Finally, it has expanded its efforts to ensure
diversity, equity, and inclusion among its scholarship recipients, which is
something she is passionate about.
Serving the Nation
Helping Airmen and Guardians every day is
the Air Force Aid Society’s guiding principle and serves as the basis for all
operational decisions. Every day, AFAS provides assistance to its Airmen and
Guardians so they can attend funerals for loved ones, repair their cars, pay
rent and utilities, or buy specialized medical equipment. At base installations
all over the world, Air Force families take advantage of AFAS-sponsored
community programs that provide childcare, car care, and spouse employment
training. With assistance from AFAS, a dependent spouse or child of an Airman
or Guardian can pursue their goal of attending college.
The AFAS team points out that without
compassionate people, this continuous support for Airmen and Guardians would
not be possible. The generous individual donations of AFAS’s donors enable AFAS
to continuously meet the essential and particular needs of Air Force and Space
Force families. Through more than 19,000 assists, the Society gave nearly $13.5
million in direct support to Air Force and Space Force families in the previous
AFAS is dedicated to being outstanding
stewards of the generosity of its donors. The Society commits $3 in direct
assistance to Airmen and Guardians for every $1 donated. AFAS obtained the
highest rating given to a charity, 4 stars from Charity Navigator, the largest
independent charity evaluator in the country.
Joining Sector to Leading It
Nicole initiated her shift from accounting
to human resources management in 2008 when she agreed to work as a fulfillment
manager for Pitney Bowes Government Solutions. She supported numerous
government contracts over the course of ten years as a government contractor by
hiring, reviewing, and terminating employees. She attained the position of
Chief Human Resource Officer at AFAS in 2021. She is thankful for the daily
chance to speak up for the company’s employees that her position provides her.
Before working at AFAS, she was a federal
government contractor. Adaptable is probably the word that best describes her.
Over the years, she has worked in extremely challenging positions requiring her
to be flexible, to readily adapt to a changing environment, and to manage with
little to no direction and training.
History Behind the Inception
When the world was consumed by war, General
Hap Arnold and his wife, Bee, chose to sow the seeds of optimism about
America’s future. The Arnold’s wanted the children of American Airmen who had
passed away to know that they were supported by a larger Air Force family as
they grew up.
The Army Air Forces Aid Society was
established by General Hap and Bee Arnold 80 years ago on a chilly March Day in
1942. Now known as the Air Force Aid Society, this new organization was
chartered for “the establishment of a trust fund, the principal of
which is to be invested to provide income for the continuing problem of Air
Force needs, mainly after the war.”
The Arnold’s had a bold vision in time of
war. They knew what a world war could do to a generation of people, and they
set about providing critical help for the post-war health of American Airmen
and their families.
At the war’s end, General Arnold gave a
speech to “thank all those who fly and those who make flying possible.” He
understood that no one soars to victory or achievement alone as all Airmen are
connected and must support each other as a family.
Today, the Air Force Aid Society’s purpose
is to help Airmen and Guardians when they need us most. As an official charity
of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force, AFAS provides emergency assistance,
educational support, and community programs to Air and Space Force families
worldwide. That aim is as important today as it was 80 years ago.
Challenges and Success
In her early twenties, Nicole looked in the
mirror and saw a divorced single parent with a high school diploma and minimal
professional skills. She was motivated not only to support her sons but also to
demonstrate to them that one’s starting point need not be their final
destination. She made the decision to continue her education while also
supporting her family and working a full-time job. It was an emotionally and
financially taxing journey that was long and frequently lonely.
As a manager, Nicole has a lot of empathy
for staff members going through difficult times, and she works hard to set up
systems of support to ensure their success as well.
Nicole’s success is determined by her
ability to set and achieve personal and professional goals. She feels that the
greatest impact that a leader can have is by displaying characteristics that
others might seek to model. As an Afro Latina, she strives to demonstrate
professionalism and integrity that might inspire others.
Way to Achieve Balance
Self-care and establishing boundaries are
the keys to balancing Nicole’s professional and personal life. She
recalls, “When we initially started working from home during the
pandemic, I think those lines became blurred, and I found myself working longer
hours than I did when we were in person.”
In order to make time for her family,
Nicole takes regular breaks throughout her workday, works out frequently, and
has a set end time for her workday. She strongly encourages her employees to do
The future of AFAS
In terms of Nicole’s position
at AFAS, she would like to see the company expand its fundraising capabilities
and secure additional grants to allow it to better serve the community. As a
personal goal, Nicole looks forward to her youngest son graduating
from high school this year and going off to college, which will give her more
time to work on her golf game. She asserts, “There is a lot I would
like to do. My current priority is to secure a $2 million donation for the Air
Force Aid Society. We want to expand our programs, but we need donations to
meet our goals.”