Latina Letters from the Front
By Sasha Alejandro NCOIC, Retentions, DEROS Mgt & Promotions Stationed at Aviano AB, Italy U.S. Air Force
As a young 18-year-old recent High School graduate, I had many aspirations and was eager to begin the next chapter in my life. In the summer of 2006 I moved in with my High School sweetheart of two years (now husband of 12), I worked three jobs and was a full-time college student majoring in accounting. While I was somehow managing to maintain my sanity, adulthood proved to be quite challenging. We worked long hours to pay our bills and could barely afford my tuition while having no social life. After almost a year of this vicious cycle, I knew something had to change. Raised as an Army brat and having witnessed first-hand the many benefits the military provides, it seemed like the most logical option to explore.
On April 10, 2007, I enlisted in the Air Force as a Personnelist and was assigned to Andrews AFB in Maryland as my first duty station. Within days of arriving I spontaneously married my High School sweetheart who had accompanied me in my travels to help get me settled. A year later, my husband joined the Army Reserves and we were overjoyed as we welcomed a healthy baby girl into our family.
While we began to settle into our lives as young parents with growing responsibilities, our foundation was shaken by unraveling trying times. As a young Airman I made mistakes that almost cost me my career in the Air Force before it began. I was demoted and being considered for an administrative discharge…my financial stability and independence hung in the balance of my leadership. As fate would have it, my unit received a new Commander with a fresh perspective who saw something in me even I failed to see…potential. With the change in leadership came a second opportunity to make things right, to prove not only to myself, but to everyone around me that I deserved to be here. I overcame those obstacles by focusing my efforts on growing and becoming the best version of me. I expanded my knowledge base becoming the subject matter expert in my section while always keeping a positive attitude. Slowly but surely, I was on my way to making a full recovery, however, the Air Force had bigger plans for me.
In February of 2010 my husband was tasked to deploy for one year and in October of that same year, I received orders to Korea. My mother, who has been my biggest supporter, without hesitation took my daughter to Puerto Rico in order to care for her in our absence. In the Latin community, family is everything and having a strong support system back home allowed us to serve our Country without limitations or distractions. Being separated from my family was no easy task, but this assignment came as a blessing in disguise.
While stationed in Korea I focused on my education, got involved with the community, volunteered and became the “go to” Airman within my unit. I worked on improving programs and standardizing processes resulting in my leadership recognizing me with quarterly awards and later named the Major Command, PACAF Airman of the Year! This assignment sparked a new-found love and commitment to the Air Force that propelled me to new heights. Since then, I have been blessed with amazing leaders and mentors who have continued to mold me into the person I am today.
In 2012 I completed Airman Leadership School earning Distinguished Graduate honors and in 2017 I graduated Non-Commissioned Officer Academy with the highest honor, the John L. Levitow Award. In 2018 I earned my bachelor’s degree with honors in Psychology and am currently working on my master’s in Organizational Development and Leadership. I can honestly say I have been afforded unbelievable opportunities and am grateful to serve our great Nation as a proud Latina!