It has been almost 65 years since Staff Sgt. Esther Blake became the “first woman in the Air Force”, and paved the way for countless women to come after her. Women have joined the U.S. Air Force under various career fields, and many hold jobs that are generally considered male-only fields. This series will recognize these pioneering women who are leading the way for future female Airmen and the Air Force in general.
Of the more than 300 Airmen in the 355th Security Forces Squadron here, there are only 25 females.
Tech. Sgt. Marie Garcia, 355th SFS noncommissioned officer in charge of plans and programs, is one of those females.
Garcia joined the Air Force in August 1999, following in her family’s footsteps.
“Law enforcement has always been in my family,” Garcia said. “I wanted to pursue that and keep the legacy going. My grandfather and uncle were in law enforcement.”
Garcia’s grandfather was in the Army, while her uncle started out in the Marine Corps but eventually went to the Army as well. Both held positions equivalent to security forces in their respective branches.
“I’m a cop at heart,” Garcia said. “What I do now is write and review all the publications and regulations we have to make sure they are up-to-date. I make sure our procedures are in place for security and any policies that we enforce, to include those covered in support agreements between us and other agencies.”
In her 14-year career, Garcia has deployed three times. All three deployments were to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Each one brought its own unique experiences.
“It’s different every time,” Garcia said. “You get there expecting one thing, and a lot has changed. In a deployed location, our job depends on what we are tasked for.”
While deployed, Garcia has done many things, ranging from security for the flight line and other secure areas to being a fly-away security manager, working with Air Combat Command to coordinate flights into Bagram.
Garcia said her assignments and her deployments have prepared her to be an NCO.
“I was sent to Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, which is closed now,” Garcia said. “That place helped me grow. I got to meet so many people and different cultures. It was a real eye-opening experience.”
Garcia uses own her experiences to guide and mentor her Airmen.
“I have been here at D-M for a while, and I have a pretty good reputation,” Garcia said. “It’s kind of like that tough-love mentality. I’ll be there for somebody to talk to, but if you are not doing your job I will let you know. I’ll be sweet about it at first. If you continue doing it, I will get in your cheerios.”
Garcia said she is cautious about being what she calls the “soft-love mommy” because some people will take advantage of it. Nonetheless, her Airmen do still come to talk with her.
“They know that Sergeant Garcia will, ‘Get in my cheerios if my hair is a mess,’” Garcia said. “I used to work quality control here. So at first, they were timid to approach me once I got out of QC as an evaluator. Once they knew I was a real person and not an evaluator, they got to see my personal side and that they could talk to me.”
Garcia says she loves to help people and get things accomplished, whether it is to assist a person become a better Airman or just a better person.
“My favorite part is actually teaching somebody something and they retain it,” Garcia said. “I’ve been an evaluator, but you have to teach them first, and then evaluate them later. If you clearly see they are struggling, then you take the evaluator hat off and talk to them like a normal person.”
Garcia says seeing someone learn from her and learn from their own mistakes is the best part of her job.