Most of the time you’ll find Yvette Orellana serving as a federal police officer for the U.S. Forest Service in Santa Barbara, Calif., patrolling in her squad car, writing tickets, protecting natural resources, as well as serving her local community as a mentor to teens heading down the wrong path.
One might assume that in her offtime in federal law enforcement, she’d enjoy a quieter life reading books, walking alongside the beach or just enjoying a slower pace. Nothing could be further from the truth. In her “down-time,” she trades in her police uniform for camouflage and serves as an anti-terrorism officer for 12th Air Force (Air component to U.S. Southern Command, or AFSOUTH).
“In a traditional security forces squadron I belong to a unit and would serve as either a team leader or a fire team leader,” Orellana said. “Here the job is totally different, you aren’t just protecting the base – you’re in charge of all of the security for Department of Defense personnel in our area of responsibility (AOR).”
Tech. Sgt. Yvette Orellana, who has served in the U.S. Air Force for 11 years as both active-duty and an individual mobilization augmentee (IMA) in the security forces career field, has had several deployments and assignments that have taken her all over the world.She views her current position in the 12th AF (AFSOUTH) Force Protection Office as the best assignment to date.
Orellana says that as an Airman she didn’t get to see behind the scenes and didn’t always understand the operational and tactical direction she was given Time here at AFSOUTH, has opened up her eyes to the level of time, effort, and operational planning that goes into making every mission and exercise a success, she says.
For Orellana, operating as traditional squadron-level security forces versus working at the Numbered Air Force (NAF) was like night and day. The most difficult part of her job is getting people to realize that there are dangers in their environment, and practicing operational security (OPSEC) at all times.
“We do things that are for other people’s own good, but they don’t always see that until something bad happens,” she says. “We have the responsibility of making sure everyone follows regulations and policy for equipment storage, weapons accountability and equipment accountability because if it gets stolen it falls on us.”
During a recent deployment in support of New Horizons Belize, Orellana deployed for four months as the anti-terrorism officer for several medical readiness training exercises where she assessed vulnerabilities on all of the schools, hospitals, hotels and restaurants, coordinated and supervised more than 50 Belizean Defence Force members. She says her favorite part of the deployment was interacting with the locals and learning their culture.
Having a father from Guatemala and being able to speak fluent Spanish assisted Orellana in removing some of the culture divided between U.S. service members and their partner nations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. She said she was better able to create partnerships and long-lasting friendships despite the fact that male-dominated military structures in Central and South America were not accustomed to working with females.
“It’s a double-edged sword because some of the countries we visit have very male dominated militaries and by my position, I often have to interact with their higher echelon leaders,” Orellana says. “The U.S. is very diverse in the fact that a man and woman can do the same job, and I think that we are kind of showing these other countries that if given the opportunity, a woman can succeed in any position.”