Taking Flight: Gabriela Valdez


Stella Jia

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s Gabriela in a plane! When people find out that Junior Gabriela Valdez is enlisting into the Air Force, their first reaction is likely that she will become a pilot. However, there are many misconceptions surrounding the Air Force as the media heavily emphasizes the “flying” aspect.
Said Valdez, “Pilot training is really intense, and the hardest part about it is even getting remotely considered to be one. There’s a certain amount of inches one has to have from your knee to your butt, and you must have perfect vision.”
Aside from the common belief of pilot training, the Air Force also provides unique jobs for its members, Valdez is planning on becoming a cybersecurity linguist. Differing from other military camps, the Air Force emphasizes education, especially in the technology and engineering department. Some classes they offer are cybersecurity, linguistics, and engineering.
Unlike the conventional pathway after high school, which is going to college for many students at CHS, Valdez will be following a more unconventional route. Even for Valdez, the pressure of following a conventional pathway hindered her from wanting to join the Air Force at first.
Said Valdez, “I was in sixth grade, and I met a navy seal and thought he was the coolest person ever. I started talking with my dad a lot about going into the military but never really settled on what I wanted to do. As I went into high school, I completely forgot about it because, at our school, everyone’s talking about going into business or medicine, which made me question going into the military.”
Over the summer, she happened to be driving by a recruitment office and decided to stop by, which re-sparked her interest in joining the military. What set the Air Force apart from other military paths was that “the Air Force acts as the brain of the military and you don’t get called out a lot for physical duties. It holds a higher focus on intel in technology.”
Another factor that re-invoked her interest to join the Air Force is the idea of building self-character and learning more about herself through this experience.
Said Valdez, “I’m excited to be a part of something important on the national scale. There is always something productive to do, not only for yourself but for the nation. Not only do I get to be serving my country, but I will get to do something for myself through this experience.”
Joining the Air Force comes with many perks, including a great retirement plan, going abroad, meeting new people, and learning a variety of new things through unique experiences. However, there are some things Valdez will have to give up.
Said Valdez, “For me, it will be hard to give up the civilian lifestyle. You are only given 30 days off a year. And a lot of the times holiday vacations are not approved, meaning that you will still have to work on Christmas. You only have 30 days in a year to see family and friends, and usually not at the same time which will be difficult as there are a lot of restrictions on where you can and can’t travel.”
Even with the limitations of a civilian lifestyle, the unique opportunities and experiences the Air Force provides outweighs the limiting factors for Valdez.