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Behind the uniform: Senior Airman Sheeryna Ibarra

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Andrew Britten
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar - Motivation is fluid, its meaning differs from person to person. For Senior Airman Sheeryna Ibarra, motivation is her respect for the sacrifices her family made so that she can flourish and thrive.


Ibarra grew up in South Central Los Angeles, Ca., she was surrounded by people who ended up behind bars, fell victim to drug use, and watched others die from gang related violence. She wasn’t willing to have her future resemble that of her peers.


“When I was 14, my dad started talking to me about what my future looked like,” Ibarra said. “Since then, I wanted to join the Air Force. I felt like it was the best decision for me and I believe it still is.”


Ibarra is a first-generation American, her father immigrated from Mexico and her mother from El Salvador. Her father served as a Department of Homeland Security officer, her mother, a juvenile corrections officer. As a family, they’ve dedicated their lives to service, Ibarra is the youngest of six children, four of which served or are serving in the U.S. Air Force or U.S. Army. Following in their footsteps, Ibarra aspired to become an Airman from a young age; she is a 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Tactical Automated Security System administrator.


Her parents have been proud and supportive of her career choice. She strives to emulate their teachings because of how hard they’ve worked to give her a better life; Ibarra feels that she owes it to them.

For the past three years, Ibarra has served as a Defender for the 802nd SFS, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Staff Sgt. Christopher Godwin, a fellow Defender with the 802nd, has mentored her since she started at JBSA.


“Ibarra has grown during her time at the unit and her work ethic has improved dramatically,” Godwin said. “She has also grown in her personal life. Watching her mature and take on more responsibility has been a pleasure.”


The feeling is mutual for Ibarra who is thankful for Godwin’s mentorship.


“From my first day on post, he took me under his wing,” said Ibarra. “He has seen me at my lowest and helped me overcome any obstacle in life. He has always been there for me and I will always be grateful for him.”


Serving as an active-duty defender is a full time commitment alone, on top of this, Ibarra has stayed on top of her education goals. She is on track to complete her Community College of the Air Force degree in criminal justice by the time she finishes her deployment next month. She has seen her deployment as a time to develop herself in many ways. Godwin has fueled her determination, reminding her to not let the past distract her from accomplishing her goals.


At Al Udeid, Ibarra has an appreciation for the Airmen she works with at the 379th ESFS. She is empathetic and mindful that many of her wingmen have spouses and children of their own back home. During the holiday season, missing time with family can be especially difficult for deployed service members.


“I make an effort to try to bring a smile to their faces every day and bring some positive energy because I know they’re missing their babies back home,” said Ibarra.


She has approached each day with an optimistic mindset and she’s appreciative of even the little things. Ibarra wishes that more service members would approach each day with a more positive attitude.


Ibarra is grateful for what Al Udeid has become and she doesn’t take it for granted. Quality of life has improved significantly in comparison to what service members who came before her experienced.


Ibarra is reaching the end of her deployment at Al Udeid and has enjoyed being in an overseas location. She encourages others to explore while they’re here, experience the culture, and try new things that aren’t typical stateside.


“This [deployment] is the time to press the reset button on your life”, said Ibarra. “Take advantage of all opportunities and set goals for yourself. I know it isn’t easy being away from home and loved ones. Keeping yourself busy and surrounding yourself with good company is what got me through this deployment.”