Why I stay: Master Sgt. Jessica Martinez-Santana

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Devyn Waits
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

After a close run-in with the law at a young age, Master Sgt. Jessica Martinez-Santana, 81st Security Forces NCO in charge, changed her path in life after joining the Air Force.

“Early in the morning, I was hanging out with this girl and her friends," said Martinez-Santana. “We suddenly all got surrounded by the cops while she was at the store buying cigarettes. For some reason, everyone else got charged with a crime while I had a long conversation with an officer about hanging with the wrong crowd. After some Air Force recruiters visited my school, I decided to visit their office. At first, I was hesitant. After giving it some thought, I booked a job in Security Forces.”

Martinez-Santana’s decision to stay was solidified when she saw how she could make an impact on the people around her.

As a Defender in a predominately male career field, Martinez-Santana had to build thick skin quickly.

“I’m destined to be here in the Air Force,” said Martinez-Santana. “I know I’m on the right path, just from meeting the people who’ve mentored me to the people I’ve motivated, as well as seeing young Airmen joining the service. I see myself in them.”

Even outside of her primary duties, Martinez-Santana doesn’t hesitate to offer a helping hand when someone needs one.

“One of my favorite moments in my career was helping an Airman turn around her PT score,” said Martinez-Santana. “She failed a diagnostic PT test with a poor run time and struggled severely with her push-ups and sit-ups. She wanted to reenlist, but I had to tell her that she wouldn’t be able to if she failed again. I asked her flight sergeants to give me a chance with her and offered my help to get her a passing score.”

For two week, Martinez-Santana and the Airman ran every day. They did push-ups, sit-ups, and worked as hard as necessary to ensure a passing score. Martinez-Santa’s help paid off when the Airman scored excellent results.

“I conducted her PT test, ran with her and she got a 93%,” said Martinez-Santana. “She wrote a long message to me, thanking me for everything. I didn't think much of it as all I did was help her with running. It was just crazy how by working out with her, she could reenlist.”

Martinez-Santana understands that inspiring people involves not only pushing them but recognizing their inherent value. Where others see a problem she’s learned to see an opportunity, just like the people who saw her as more than a problem years ago.

“You have to find out what motivates them, what their goals are,” said Martinez-Santana. “Get to know them and who their family is rather than treat them like a faceless entity.”

By learning to lean on and look out for others, she has found her family within the Air Force.

“I met so many people at Ramstein Air Force Base, including my current senior enlisted leader Senior Master Sgt. Laurie Johnson,” said Martinez-Santana. “I always thought it was cool that she was a prior military training instructor, and I would often go to her if I had questions about anything. In fact, I can say that she put me on the path of where I needed to be. I also met Master Sgt. Keith Becker. He’s one of my biggest cheerleaders and the reason why I was able to put on master sergeant recently.”

Martinez-Santana does what she can to ensure the people around her enjoy the same opportunities she had. She’s currently pursuing her Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources so she can continue making an impact on people’s lives after she retires.