149th FW 'Gunfighter' selected as AF ambassador for third straight year

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas -- A member of the Texas Air National Guard will once again represent the Air Force in an official capacity for Joint Base San Antonio's 2017 Military Ambassadors program.

Tech. Sgt. Marie Sarabia, a recruiter with the 149th Fighter Wing, cements her place in wing history as the latest member to be chosen for the special designation three years running.

"I was honestly humbled to be selected because you're going up against the best of the best," she said. "(The board) is not just looking at the Air National Guard, they're looking at the Air Force Reserves and active duty Air Force - really sharp folks that truly believe in what the Air Force is and what JBSA is, so when I got it, I was truly shocked. It's definitely a humbling moment."

The Military Ambassador program is an annual tradition for the JBSA military community. Official representatives from every branch of service are chosen from the three administratively-combined installations -- Fort Sam Houston, Randolph and Lackland -- to engage with their community at local events, the majority of which involve Fiesta San Antonio.

Master Sgt. Jacqueline Crow, an intelligence analyst with the 149th FW and last year's female Air Force ambassador, said she was happy to see the Texas Air National Guard once again represented in this way.

"It's a good deal for the Guard," Crow said. "The Guard can come out and represent -- Total Force once again. It also shows how valid the Guard is in today's war fight, today's military and today's Air Force. The Guard is an essential part of that, and I thought it was an amazing thing that (Sarabia) got selected for the program.

As someone who's been through the selection process herself, Crow understands how intense it can be for Air Force candidates.

She said Air Force applicants must first submit an extensive paper package that includes military history, special achievements, community involvement and job skills, among other qualifications.

The applicants who make it past the paper process must then meet before a board made up of active duty chief master sergeants and the previous year's Air Force ambassadors.

"It was pretty nerve wracking. I'm not going to lie," said Sarabia, remembering what it was like to meet before the selection board. And although Sarabia's said she's had experience with boards in the past, she confessed it was still a little intimidating.

"I went in there and had a lot of nerves, but I just had to calm myself down and take it one step at a time," Sarabia said on how she managed to quell her unease.

Crow was one of the people seated on this year's panel and remarked on how well Sarabia presented herself and said she impressed everyone on the board.

"She's going to do well. I'm really proud of her," said Crow about her successor.

Crow even decided to carry on a tradition that was started by the 2015 female Air Force ambassador, Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Hall, another fellow 149th FW member.

When Crow was first selected as ambassador in 2016, Hall gave Crow a service cap she had worn to keep the sun out of her eyes at various Fiesta events. The hat fit Crow perfectly and seemed to serve as a positive symbol for what lay ahead.

"To me, it symbolizes the passing on of the torch but also shows how we take care of one another in the wing, and really the Air National Guard," said Sarabia. "Some people say, 'well, what's the difference between you and anyone else?' and I would say we're very family oriented. We take care of one another and we're very proud of where we come from and what we represent."

As for Crow, she sees nothing but good things ahead for Sarabia.

"She is going to meet some amazing people along the way that really care about the San Antonio community, and she's going to meet some remarkable Air Force leaders," Crow said. "My advice to her would be to represent the Guard and the 149th well and to just be herself and have fun with it."

A fellow co-worker and another former ambassador from the wing, Master Sgt. Juan Flores, expressed the utmost confidence in Sarabia's abilities.

"I'm very proud of her," he said. "Not only is it a big accomplishment to compete and be selected among so many top performers, but I know she'll have a great experience and represent the Air National Guard in a great fashion."

Sarabia said she feels some pressure to keep the legacy going because of the strong representation the wing has had in the past but is simply going to focus on what she does best.

"Being an Air Guard recruiter, I know a lot of people don't know about the Air Guard," she said. "They just know about the Air Force Reserves, and of course active duty. I want to let them know we're here in the community and tell them about our state mission -- that we have unique missions that involve going out and actually defending our local communities. I really want to bring awareness into what we do."

The ambassadors' first event is Jan. 26 for the Military Flag Officers and Spouses
Reception in downtown San Antonio.