James Rangitsch entered the Air Force in 1979 at age 18 and in 1996 deployed to Dharan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, in support of Operation Southern Watch.
On the evening of June 25, 1996, he was relaxing in his dorm room in the Khobar Towers when terrorists detonated a bomb outside the compound. Surviving the attack, Rangitsch administered first aid to numerous victims and was awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries.
Later, Rangitsch earned the 1996 Air Force Watch Supervisor of the Year award and served four more years of active duty before retiring in 2000 as a master sergeant. In 2002, he began working for the Federal Aviation Administration as an air traffic controller, and in 2012 returned to the Department of Defense to serve as a civilian air traffic controller at Westover Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts.
Since March 2014, Rangitsch has worked as an air traffic controller and watch supervisor in the 509th Operations Support Squadron, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.