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A Journey to Finding Diversity

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nicole Molignano
  • Seventh Air Force Public Affairs

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders contributions have been influential throughout the history of the United States and the men and women who have served, and are serving, have helped shape our military into what it is today. The Department of Defense celebrates these contributions and service by declaring May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

For Senior Airman Fritzie Saz, a Filipino-American, she proudly contributes that storied legacy between her family’s heritage and the U.S. military.

Saz was born in San Fernando, a coastal municipality in the province of Cebu, Philippines, to parents who hoped to one day move to the United States. At just nine years old, Saz traveled to Idaho alongside her mother Mayla Saz, where they would start a new life in the States. Adjusting to a new country and learning a new language is already difficult on its own, and for Saz the struggles didn’t end there. 

Saz explained that the area she grew up in was not very diverse. Jerome High School, ID was populated with predominately Caucasian Americans, leaving her feeling isolated amongst her peers. She mentions that there were only a handful of Asian-Americans that she recalls even seeing within her school. 

“School was rough on me,” said Saz; “I was looked at differently and I became an easy target for jokes. I knew I didn’t want to stay in this town after high school, I needed a drastic change that didn’t involve a conventional mindset.”

 It wasn’t until her junior year in high school that the idea of joining the military first crossed her mind. Her aunt, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Rhea Pettaway, was the main contributing factor that originally opened Saz’s eyes to the military. Pettaway, a drill sergeant stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO was the first member of Saz’s family to join the armed forces. “I remember her calling and telling me about all of the opportunities I would have in the military. That I could travel and it would be a great way to get out of Idaho.” said Saz “It didn’t much convincing, I knew I wanted a change.” 

After graduating high school in 2017, Saz packed her bags and shipped off for Basic Military Training in the Air Force in July of 2018. 

“Joining the military opened my eyes to something I hadn’t experienced before.” Saz explained “BMT was my first real encounter of diversity. The girls in my flight were different in every aspect, yet we were still all looked at as ‘trainees’ and not by our differences.” Saz would continue to persevere with that newly learned outlook that demonstrated inclusion amongst her peers.  

Now, a member of the 51st Logistics Readiness Squadron at Osan Air Base, Saz continues to learn the importance of what it’s like to work together as a team. She currently works as a journeyman in Individual Protection Equipment. IPE is a component of the LRS squadron and is responsible for storing and providing tactical equipment, gas masks, weapons, and deployment bags. The IPE flight plays a pivotal role when it comes to distributing the necessary gear to fulfill Osan AB’s motto “Fight Tonight.”

Saz explained that inventory conducted by IPE is a very detailed process that requires every airman to do their part.

“IPE is just a small part of LRS, there are many flights that all depend on each other to get the job done.” said Saz. “Just like LRS I think of diversity in the same way. One flight or one person cannot accomplish the mission alone, we need each other and we have to rely on everyone.”

Looking back at her experience since being in the Air Force, she has now gained the sense of belonging she once lacked in high school. Instead of feeling like an outsider in her old community, she now feels like a contributing member that helps diversify the Air Force.

“We may all come from different places, but we all wear the same uniform.” Saz said “I think being unique is what helps make the Air Force so strong.” 

Today there are more than 300,000 living Asian-American and Pacific Islander American veterans. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month stands as a reminder of the strength and diversity the Air Force has acquired and will continue to foster through its accepting force.

Courtesy of the Seventh Air Force Diversity & Inclusion Council