By SSgt Bazil Rivera.
U.S. Air Force.

People ask me why I chose to join the Air Force all the time. I could lie and say it’s because I dreamt of serving my country, or because of a family tradition to serve. But in reality, it was because I was about to graduate high school and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My family couldn’t afford to send me to college and, even if I went right away I didn’t know what I wanted to study. Years ago, my mom had dreams of joining the Air Force but chose another path at the last minute. She told me her story and somehow, I found my way to the local recruiter’s office.

Eight years later, and I can see that 17-year-old me couldn’t have made a better choice. I am an intelligence analyst and have been given so many wonderful opportunities. I met the man I would marry, have a son with, and later divorce. I got stationed in Maryland and fell in love with all the seasons and all that the East Coast has to offer. I bought my first home at the age of 21 and am in the process of selling it. As a single mother, I can provide for my son without worry. Travel opportunities have fallen into my lap, with the most unexpected yet most fulfilling being my deployment to Djibouti, Africa.

In 2013, I volunteered for a deployment, location unknown. During training to prepare myself for this adventure I met some of the most memorable women. All of us had our own reasons for being there but we all understood the pain of being away from our families and walking into this scary future that we willingly signed up for. I got lucky and was selected to go to Dijubuti, Africa and it was an experience like no other. The theme here being that I made more friends that would have a place in my heart forever.

SSgt Bazil Rivera with her son Ezekiel, 2016.

SSgt Rachael Meade (left) with SSgt Bazil Rivera (right) at the 2017 Inaugural Armed Forces Ball.

I came home six months later ready to grow my family and continue the momentum my career has gained because of this experience. I put on another stripe and my love for the Air Force grew. I was able to watch and help my young airmen blossom. I jumped blindly into the opportunity to be a program manager for an Air Force Intelligence Program designed to bridge the gap between national intelligence and the tactical warfighter. Within six months, I learned all I could from my mentor and then suddenly was thrown into developing a two-week course for all analysts within the program. It was a struggle I hadn’t experienced before. I had very little guidance and had more lateral movement then I knew what to do with. However, over the span of two years the course had morphed from just an idea into a fully validated and funded course. Being chosen to create this class really brought out a part of me I hadn’t known before. I gained confidence on so many levels. I also came to recognize that teaching is what I love to do. I have been lucky in my Air Force journey because I enjoy what I do every day. I may or may not stay in the Air Force the full 20 years, but I will forever be grateful that this is where I discovered myself personally and professionally.

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