Believe in yourself!

  • Published
  • By Maj Jose A. Quintanilla
  • 501 CSW/LG

17 years old and already a high school dropout, I recall walking by the local community college in Pasco, Washington and thinking “Only smart people go there, I’ll never be able to.”

This experience occurred 26 years ago but was a catalyst to what would transpire in my life from that point forward. At the time, I was working full time for a small landscaping company in the Tri-Cities area of Pasco and Kennewick. We would begin our work day bright and early in order to minimize the time under the hot sun while the company owner supervised our efforts and constantly reminded us, “Hurry up, time is money!”

The estates we serviced were located within beautiful gated communities near the Columbia River. The lawns were green, healthy and vast—a perfectly manicured, beautiful landscape. The driveways were long and often held luxury vehicles. The homes were large, multiple stories high and beautiful.  Seeing all these things, I’d wonder, “What is the common denominator?” Then it dawned on me “All these people are professionals!” Doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. “And what does it take to be a professional? Education of course!”  I had just seen the light and had my very own ‘Ah-ha’ moment!

Wanting to pull myself up by my own ‘bootstraps’, I completed the G.E.D., attained 15 college credit hours and joined the U.S. Air Force as an Airman Basic in 1996 in order to qualify for the $15K Montgomery GI Bill education benefits. I graduated Basic Military Training and attended the Supply Apprentice Technical School where I was recognized as a Distinguished Graduate. This opened my eyes to the fact that, I too, was capable of competing against my peers and began to change my poor self- perception. In a moment of reflection, I came to understand that the DG award was a vindication of not necessarily smarts, but of hard work, dedication and consistency. I had just discovered the formula for success and realized that not only smart people can go to college!

Even when we might not be the strongest, fastest or smartest; hard work, dedication and consistency are attributes that can help us overcome challenges in our lives. Whether in the realm of education, physical fitness, career progression or any other worthwhile endeavor, the formula works.

Two decades later, I am humbled by the outstanding opportunities I’ve been afforded through the U.S. Air Force. I’ve been able to navigate the enlisted ranks from Airman Basic to Technical Sergeant, receive my Bachelor’s Degree and commission through Officer Training School as a Second Lieutenant. Since then, I’ve been able to attain my Master’s degree via the Air Force Institute of Technology and have enjoyed numerous overseas assignments and positions culminating in the one I currently hold as the Wing Logistics Officer for the 501st Combat Support Wing. Just think about it, how much more is possible for us, all we need is to simply believe in ourselves and back that up with hard work, dedication and consistency! In the words of Dr. Seuss: “Oh, the places you’ll go!”