1st generation Reserve Citizen Airman pursues Ph.D.

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Erin Zimpfer
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A medical logistics Airman from the 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadron is no stranger to hard work and dedication. Staff Sgt. Jeanette Salgado is a first generation U.S. born citizen. Her Salvadoran parents immigrated to New Jersey a few years before she was born.

In her 31 years, the young, trail-blazing Airman is making a name for herself around the wing. Salgado is one of four logistics personnel in the squadron. She enlisted into the Air Force Reserve in 2018 after finishing her master’s degree in sports administration.

But her interest in the military started about a year before that. “I had friends who went to the Naval Academy and West Point, and I knew that I wanted to commission,” said Salgado. “I signed up to take my AFOQT [Air Force Officer Qualifying Test] and received a two -week notice of when my test would be. It was right in the middle of finals for my master’s program and I did not study and ended up failing the test by one point.”

She did not let that stop her determination. After receiving her master’s, she moved to Louisville and was speaking to a recruiter soon after.

“Many people I had spoken with in the military told me that the best officers in the military were prior enlisted Airmen and I decided I wanted to go that route,” shared Salgado. “To me, enlisting in the Reserve was a way I could give back to my country and get a feeling for what being in the military is like.”

Salgado had the desire to serve after her parents moved the family here in order to give their children the best opportunities. The young Airman did not even know if she would have the opportunity to attend a university because her family just made ends meet.

“My plans were to go to community college,” she shared. “College was not something my family had really done before and community college was so much more affordable.”

In high school, Salgado played club soccer and the girls on the team started to be recruited. Salgado was offered a full scholarship to play at Delaware State.

“I chose them because it was closest to my parents while still being a Division I school. School has always been really important to me. I have always had good grades and the small class sizes were important to me.”

While at Delaware State, Salgado fell in love with strength and conditioning and a growing friendship formed between her and the coach.

“I was nearing the end of my bachelor’s program in exercise science and my coach helped me to do my internship at the strength and conditioning facility at the school. This opened up the opportunity to do a graduate assistanceship with them in order to complete my master’s degree there,” said Salgado.

In addition to the education opportunities afforded to Salgado, her hard work and dedication also opened doors for her to play semi-professional soccer.

Salgado’s college soccer coach encouraged her to try out playing the sport outside of the D1 environment.

“After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I made a semi-pro team in New Jersey,” recalled Salgado. “That wasn’t really a good fit for me, then a team from Virginia Beach picked me up and I played with them for three or four months throughout that summer.”

Even though it was short lived, the experiences shaped her and made her more determined than ever.

“Here I was on this semi-professional team, coming from a really small D1 school and playing with girls who have played internationally or come from larger D1 schools, it was intimidating, and I was not sure if I would ever see the field,” she said. “I had it in my head that I needed to dig deep, work really hard and just keep going. Eventually I was a starter and was invited to play in a two-week tournament in El Salvador, where my family is from. We played teams from Guatemala, Honduras and a couple teams that were from El Salvador. It was an awesome experience.”

After that summer, even though she had seen a lot of success on the soccer field, she remained dedicated and focused on her educational goals.

“At that time, semi-pro was the highest level in the U.S. and they do not pay you to play. They cover your living expenses and necessities but it was too up in the air whether pro soccer was going to start again for women,” said Salgado. “I did not want to leave anything up to chance. I had the full ride for my master’s degree and my job as a graduate apprentice, so I had to leave soccer.”

Salgado’s hard work and dedication led to amazing opportunities in all areas of her education and career. In 2021, she was selected to be the lead medical logistics coordinator for the Ultimate Caduceus Exercise held at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

“Staff Sergeant Salgado is a very passionate and sharp troop. She quickly embraced the medical logistics career field, demonstrating she is ready for her upcoming deployment during the Ultimate Caduceus exercise last year,” said Tech. Sgt. Zachory Tschuor, lead medical logistics technician. “She is also not afraid to get involved with helping around the squadron Airman’s council, physical training leader, holiday party planning, etc. She adds a lot to our squadron.”

She was awarded an Air Force Achievement medal for her leadership in the Ultimate Caduceus exercise.

“People ask me sometimes how did all of this happen and I think, it is because I look at something that I want and I just start asking questions. How can I make things happen? I go to the people doing the things I want and ask them how they achieved it,” said Salgado.