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Always believe in yourself, the rest will follow

Airman 1st class Sahira Contreras, 47th Health Care Operations Squadron referral management technician, stands in her office where she helps patients at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, Jan. 9, 2020. She was awarded Senior Airman Below the Zone in December 2019, giving her privilege of donning her next stripe and the next level of responsibility six months earlier than normal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Airman 1st class Sahira Contreras, 47th Health Care Operations Squadron referral management technician, stands in her office where she helps patients at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, Jan. 9, 2020. She was awarded Senior Airman Below the Zone in December 2019, giving her privilege of donning her next stripe and the next level of responsibility six months earlier than normal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Ever since she was young, Airman 1st Class Sahira Contreras, 47th Health Care Operations Squadron referral management technician, saw her dad in uniform and knew that’s the life she wanted when she was older.

Her dad always supported her goals to follow in his footsteps, so when she finished high school at age 17, her parents co-singed for her to join the U.S. Air Force.

Right away, Contreras hit the ground running and later learned about Senior Airman Below the Zone, an award that would give her the rank of E-4, six months earlier. To achieve this, she would have to prove herself worthy of the extra responsibility.

Contreras was awarded BTZ in December 2019, after much effort and extra time put into her job and the community, and finally, by proving to leadership, she deserved it.

Contreras believes it all started by communicating her goals to her supervisors and leadership.

Contreras talked of how Senior Airman Soribel Rodriguez, 47th Medical Group health services management, was a major role model for her, having achieved BTZ the year before.

As well as having a good example, Contreras emphasized how important it was for her to have a good mentor.

“Senior Green is one of my biggest mentors,” Contreras said. “She was my supervisor for a few weeks before she moved to education. Even though she moved, she stayed in touch to check in with me from time to time, making sure I stayed on track with my goals. If I didn’t have mentors, I wouldn’t have known how to conduct myself at the board, which was very professional.”

“I was immediately impressed with Sahira’s openness to approach me and share her development goals,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Green, 47th Force Support Squadron education office career assistant advisor. “From day one arrival, Sahira’s tenacity to pursue her goals and her self-discipline to acclimate herself with strict military standards stood head and shoulders above her peers.”

Contreras not only put in work, to earn BTZ, but she also practiced for the board where she would conduct herself in front of and interact with senior enlisted leaders from base.

“If I could give advice to those who want “below the zone,” I would say always be open to being uncomfortable and being in uncomfortable situations because that’s what helped me grow most,” Contreras said.

Contreras acknowledges the people she’s met at Laughlin, her coworkers and supervisors as the reason she’s reached BTZ. She says without them, her accomplishments wouldn’t have been possible.

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