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JBSA Airman, Air Force's best paralegal, looks beyond the law to medicine

By Brian Lepley | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | July 12, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

Parents have big career dreams for their children.

 

“You could be a doctor, a lawyer!” they’ll say.

 

So when Patricia Jimenez’ daughter Savannah told her mom she was joining the Air Force, well …

 

“I felt my heart skip a beat,” Jimenez remembered. “My first thought was, "no, not my daughter. “I then realized that she had grown up and became a very strong, intelligent, independent woman right before my eyes and I knew she would make the right choices in life.”

 

Savannah Perez hoped for aerospace medicine tech school on her open enlistment. She ended up with her third choice, paralegal, which is also her mother’s career.

 

“She’s done that job her whole life, all my life and I’d been to work with her a few times,” Perez said. “I knew what she did and I thought it was interesting.”

 

The Air Force’s choice for Perez of the law over medicine is working out.

 

After earning the Joint Base San Antonio Top Paralegal Award for 2017 and 2018, the San Antonio native is now the best in the Air Force, winner of the 2018 Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Castleman Award.

 

The work is interesting, Perez says, but she appreciates the skills she’s developed at the Joint Base San Antonio Staff Judge Advocate’s office: research, analysis and dealing with people.

 

Demonstrating those abilities has made a real-world difference at JBSA, according to Staff Sgt. John Wallace Jr., the SJA’s Military Justice NCOIC.

 

“She assisted in recovering evidence for a wrongful death claim in 2018 and her efforts helped us find a key piece of evidence that had gone missing for two years,” he said. “Ultimately the Air Force did not have to pay the $10 million dollars alleged in the claim.”

 

Jimenez’ apprehension over her daughter’s military choice is now appreciation.

 

“I am very proud of her and everything she has accomplished in the Air Force,” she said. “I taught her to be the best at what she did, to never doubt herself, and to always know what she wanted.”

 

Perez’s three 502nd Force Support Group Airman of the Quarter awards during 2017 and 2018 prove her drive for excellence extends beyond the SJA office at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.

 

“She’s an impressive Airman, performing far above her grade and skill level, which has been recognized with these awards and her below-the-zone promotion,” said Staff Sgt. Savella Constancio, the SJA Legal Office NCOIC. “She back-filled two vacant NCOIC slots for months.”

 

One of those assignments was four months at the Medical Education and Training Campus as the SJA liaison.

 

“Perez was the legal assistance for thousands of military cycling through the METC, every Wednesday, impacting the morale and welfare of those students,” Constancio said. “Trainees just aren’t able to get to the SJA office. Perez provided the necessary legal work they commonly need over there: powers of attorney, notaries, assistance with child custody and divorce issues and finances.”

 

As successful as her law career has been, Perez has not given up on medicine.

 

“I’m getting prerequisite classes completed at St. Philips College in order to apply for the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program,” Perez said.

 

It’s been a journey for the 2014 Harlandale High School graduate who decided in late 2015 to aim high.

 

“I joined for a lot of reasons … travel, the GI Bill, but I woke up one day and decided that I was going to join the Air Force,” Perez said. “I’m surprised how much I love it. I plan on being in a long time.”

 

Travel has moved to the forefront of her goals since she’s serving in her hometown.

 

“I ended up back here after tech school in Alabama. I’ve been to Florida,” Perez said. “That’s it. I’d like to get overseas.”

 

An Airman paralegal studying to become a nurse, Perez also volunteers for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, mentoring a nine-year-old San Antonio girl. The senior airman also has personal roles: a wife, marrying her high school sweetheart Rogelio after completing boot camp and, this November, she becomes a mother.

 

“She loves children and to be able to love one of her very own is going to make her the happiest that she has ever been,” Jimenez said. “I know that she will teach her daughter to be the woman that she has grown to become.”