Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Senior Airman Natalie Lopez: Growing Up a Daddy’s Girl
The previous guest post was by Emma Lopez, who is the mother of Natalie Lopez, a senior airman in the U.S. Air Force’s security forces. The photo above is of Natalie atop a Humvee in Afghanistan. Now here’s Natalie’s story:
Growing up a daddy’s girl, I was intrigued with my dad’s stories as a Marine in Vietnam. I wanted to be like him, but I respected his wishes and did not join the Marine Corps. Then in 2006 I joined the Air Force.
Graduating from high school with three years of Air Force ROTC under my belt, I knew a little about the military. I have always felt that God placed me here to help him change the world, and I felt that by joining the military I could do just that.
I, like many other women in the military, have faced challenges in my career, and one of these was that of others doubting my work. I’ve had a chain of command that trusted in me and as a result I was very successful.
On the other side, I’ve had a chain of command that seemed to doubt me, and it is very frustrating trying to stay consistently motivated. These are the times I have to stop and remind myself that I must focus and prove that I am capable of being the best at what I do.
Although the hardest part of my job is being away from my loved ones, having to make split-second decisions is crucial. The level of responsibility that the Air Force places on me as a young military member in this career field is important, whether it be in a deployed environment, where it’s life or death, or in stateside security forces where the wrong choice also results in consequences.
Other than just learning how to face challenges, I have learned to keep things in perspective and committed. I’ve always been taught that, once I commit myself, I must follow through. I don’t think I really got it until I joined the military.
As part of my job, I’m constantly thinking about the benefits of the Air Force for young females and Latinas, and I think the most important message to get across is the one that I have repeatedly told myself. I can get skills that I didn’t know I had, and then make use of those back in civilian work. I can go back to the community and be a teacher, go to law school, become a policeman or fireman. I don’t have to decide on the rest of my life; I have joined the United States Air Force.
One thing I am certain to have acquired from military life is leadership. There is a lot of focus on leadership development. I’m trained to be a leader through leadership study and getting “hands-on” training on a daily basis due to the nature of the military rank structure, which allows an opportunity to lead. As you move up in rank, you continue to refine and develop your leadership style.
Being a veteran of both Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, I believe that there is nothing that can hold individuals back except themselves. The harder you work, the more you will get. Don’t wait for praise. Work until you are satisfied with yourself.
Ultimately, I believe that God has given me the strength to overcome the challenges in not only my career but in my personal life. He has also placed great people in my path that have helped me along my journey.
For the females and Latinas who are entering the workforce, my advice is to “surround yourself with friends and mentors that will provide help and guidance along the way.”
Visit the site of Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel.