By Senior Airman Gloria Moctezuma, USAF
I was born in Montclair, California, and grew up in the city of Rancho Cucamonga. My mother, who was a single mother of four children, worked two to three jobs at a time and still managed to help me with my homework after school. From a young age, I knew my mother worked hard and wasn’t able to do the things she wanted to do; she had no regrets but always told me to do what I wanted to do in life and not let anyone tell me I couldn’t do it because I was a girl.
My mother’s brother, Salvador Lopez, was a big part of my life. He was my father figure and his wife, Elizabeth Lopez, and he helped my mother raise us. They encouraged me to do well in school so I didn’t have to work as hard as my uncle and my mother had to. After graduating high school in 2008 with a scholarship, I attended San Joaquin Valley College, a private junior college that specialized in the field of Corrections and Sheriff’s Department. I graduated in 2010 with an Associates in Criminal Justice, and I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to take next. My mother’s brother, Carlos Lopez, who is currently in the Army, came to visit after his deployment in Iraq. He told me stories of places he visited, people he met, training he went through and educational opportunities available to him. At that moment, I knew what I wanted to do next in life, and he suggested joining the Air Force.
I joined the U.S. Air Force on May 10, 2010. During my Basic Military Training and Technical School Training, my instructors saw what I, at the time didn’t see, which was my ability to stand out and lead others. I was never that person to raise my hand first in class or the first person to volunteer for anything, but as I continue my training, I became more confident in myself and started to reach outside my comfort zone. In 2010, I received orders to Osan Air Base, South Korea, assigned to the 51st Security Force Squadron. I was excited and nervous at the same time-I had never been away from home or even in a different country before.
When I started to work law enforcement and security operations, my mentors knew I had a positive attitude and the potential to do more. They encouraged me to try out for the Quick Reaction Team, a military unit capable of rapid responses to developing situations on base. It required long and vigorous training and the ability to stay focused mentally, physically and spiritually. I didn’t want to be seen as weak because I was a girl, so I trained my body to be stronger, which helped me earn a 100 percent on my annual Air Force physical fitness test, and I eventually finished the Quick Reaction Course. I was part of the team and training in front of the Chief of Security Forces and General James D. Thurman. I was in top condition and wanted to be more involved with my squadron. I volunteered to run my first full marathon (26.2 miles) in order to raise money for a program known as “Knights of Heroes” which offered a summer camp vacation for the children who have lost their fathers on active duty. I was able to gather several people I worked with to make and sell tamales and breakfast burritos raising more than $1,500, and thanks to amazing leadership and encouragement, I completed my first marathon in four hours and 20 minutes. During that marathon, I raised enough to allow six children to attend the camp for free. I was later asked by the Air Force Office of Special Investigation’s (AFOSI) to be part of Operation Quarry Dong which led to the identification, exploitation and neutralization of potential threats to Osan Air Base, South Korea.
I then attended High Risk Training, Fly Away Security Team Training, Combatives Training and was part of the Exercise Evaluation Team. I later received orders to F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, assigned to the 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron. I continued my training and attended the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy course, taught by Renee Gracie himself, and continued to stay in top physical condition with monthly combative courses conducted in my squadron and by staying physically active.
I have been fortunate to have done so much in the little time that I have been in the Air Force and also to have had some really great mentors throughout my career. When I joined the service I originally planned to stay in four years; I recently re-enlisted four more years. I enjoy the training I’ve received, the experience of being overseas and the friends I have met while being in the service. My Air Force goals are to continue my training, return overseas and attend the Phoenix Raven Program, which is Air Mobility Command’s program consisting of specially trained security forces personnel dedicated to providing security for AMC’s aircraft transiting high terrorist and criminal threat areas. I’d also like to look further into the Reserve Officer Training Corps program. My personal goals are to continue my education, mentor others and make my family proud.
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