42nd APS Airman's journey from the Dominican Republic to the USAF

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Natalia Vazquez Torres
  • 439th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

It takes will and strength to be part of the world’s greatest Air Force and overcome hurdles.

For U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nefris Quiterio Sanchez, 42nd Aerial Port Squadron command support staff personnelist, passion and perseverance were the keys to her success.

Quiterio Sanchez was 18 years old when her family first arrived to Connecticut from the Dominican Republic in 2009.

“Nobody [in my family] spoke English,” she said. “It was super rough.”

Still, the language barrier didn’t stop Quiterio Sanchez from pursuing her dream: joining the military.

She said she wanted to join the military in the Dominican Republic but was told it was not for females, so when she moved to Connecticut, she started working towards joining the U.S. military.

“We moved in July of 2009 and, by September, I was at a recruiting center,” she said.

The process was not smooth, however. Because of the language barrier, Quiterio Sanchez struggled to qualify for the service.

“I did well in most of the ASVAB, except for the English part,” she said. “My score was good enough to join the Army or the Marines, but I wanted to join the Air Force.”

Quiterio Sanchez decided to take her time to learn English before retaking the ASVAB. She enrolled in several English as a Second Language programs in high schools and church, before pursuing higher education at a community college.

“That was my focus, learning the language,” she said. “During those five years I learned about the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve.”

In 2015, she retook the ASVAB, and made the decision to join the Air Force Reserve at Westover Air Reserve Base, where she has been ever since.

“Everybody has different reasons for joining,” said Quiterio Sanchez. “For me, it was a personal achievement. It’s the United States Air Force. It’s the biggest Air Force, and I am so proud.”

While she’s served in the Air Force Reserve, Quiterio Sanchez also worked on her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in women gender and sexuality, and graduated in December 2019. She encourages airmen to think about their reasons for making their decisions in life.

“Think about what was your reason, why you want to be here,” said Quiterio Sanchez. “Whatever the reason is, because every reason is important.”