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Women's History Month: 149th Fighter Wing Gunfighter Chief Master Sgt. Michelle Echavarria

By 149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs | 149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs | March 25, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
Chief Master Sgt. Michelle Echavarria is the superintendent for 149th Fighter Wing’s Force Support Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and one of three female chiefs currently assigned to the wing.
 

In January 1997, Echavarria joined the active duty Air Force, but four years later she transferred to the Air National Guard as a member of the 136th Airlift Wing commander’s support staff at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Carswell Field, Texas.

“When I joined the Air National Guard, I was part-time, then 9/11 happened shortly after I joined; and just like that, things changed, and I decided I would make more of a difference as an enlisted member and ultimately as an enlisted leader,” Echavarria said of the important crossroads moment in her life when she debated between becoming an officer or remaining an enlisted member.

In 2008, she became a Gunfighter, a nickname for members of the 149th Fighter Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, when she joined the unit as a recruiter. By this time, she had already made a name for herself as a recruiter at her previous unit, earning the highest-level award at that time.

Echavarria said that drive for success also created higher expectations, and although it has been difficult at times for her to keep up with the pace she set for herself, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

"I knew it was going to be hard,” she said. "I knew it was going to be challenging, and sure enough, it was, but I feel like I was always reminded 'don’t lose focus, don’t give up. Think about what you’re here to do.’ I’m not only here to make a difference for the young folks I put into the Guard but to continue to be an example of a strong woman and to overcome, but I owe it all to my mentors, my peers and my supervisors, good and bad, because I know they’ve helped mold me into who I am today."

Echavarria is now the lead enlisted member for the 149th FSS, a position she earned in May 2018.

“Being the FSS chief is very challenging because everyone that comes into this unit has to come through the FSS; everyone that leaves has to come through the FSS," Echavarria said. "Their career progression happens in the FSS, fitness requirements happen through the FSS. Professional education and training requirements happen through FSS. It is one of the most difficult positions to be in because it is the hub of what happens in the wing and the Guard in general.”

Despite the added pressures that come with her role as both chief and superintendent of a busy squadron, Echavarria is happy to be where she is and believes everything in life serves a purpose.

"As hard as it’s been, as challenging as it’s been, I wouldn’t change anything because I learned from everything,” she said. "And most importantly, I didn’t give up.