As someone who joined the Air Force with the simple hope of gaining lifelong memories and a sense of pride knowing she made a difference, one senior airman said she never imagined herself among the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.
“Quite honestly, I couldn't believe it,” said Senior Airman Monica Figueroa Santos, from the 341st Missile Wing command post, after receiving the news she had been selected. “I kept denying it in my head, but after I accepted the reality of it all I thought about my parents. They've done so much for me and I can't thank them enough.”
Figueroa Santos joined the Air Force in March 2020 to keep her dad's legacy going.
“He was an immigrant and, without knowing English, enlisted to serve a country he wasn't a citizen of just to give our family a better life. Twenty years later, he is still active duty and I look up to him for that. I am proud to follow in his footsteps,” she said.
Figueroa Santos works as a senior nuclear command and control emergency actions controller in the Malmstrom command post. She was selected as one of the Air Force 12 OAY for her elite performance in her career field. Some of her successes this year include coordinating emergency and mission-critical information. She was even a key player in six search and rescue missions with the 40th Helicopter Squadron, leading to two saved lives.
“My job is a privilege,” she said. “Not everyone gets to serve and not everyone can serve. That’s what motivates me to get up and do my job every day.
“I'm trusted with highly-confidential information and that is most certainly a privilege,” said Figueroa Santos. “I've worked endless holidays, weekends and night shifts, but overall to me this job means assurance. No matter the time or day, someone will always be at the command post - we are the eyes and ears of this base for both the commanders and higher headquarters.”
Figueroa Santos represents resilience, hard work and drive, qualities of the Air Force 12 OAY, said Master Sgt. Christiana Ritenour, 341st Airman Leadership School commandant and Figueroa Santos’s previous supervisor. “Throughout her time at Malmstrom, I watched her grow, overcome emotional turmoil, pick herself up from her boot-straps and tackle whatever the Air Force threw at her.”
“It’s an honor, truly,” said Figueroa Santos. “I am so thankful for this opportunity and am looking forward to the next steps in my career.”
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