JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
In the dynamic realm of military training, Staff Sgt. Karina Flores, an Air Force Military Training Instructor, recently participated in a drill sergeant exchange program with the U.S. Army.
Known for its extreme competitiveness, Flores competed against nominees from various branches, facing a rigorous board consisting of five chief master sergeants. This demanding evaluation process underlines the dedication and proficiency required to earn a spot in the exchange program.
“I went into it with confidence, and I was just myself,” Flores said. “I feel that’s the only thing you can do, and not put on a show.”
Flores says she received a call a day after her interview where she was informed about her selection. She says a week later, she was packed and en route to Fort Jackson, South Carolina
“I was definitely stressing out with the short notice, but it happened the way it was supposed to,” Flores said.
Flores, with nine years of service in the Air Force, attributes her success during the program to her background as a security forces member. Her training kicked into high gear, allowing her to shine during the approximately 10-week Basic Combat Training Course where she fully participated in training Army recruits.
“I was surprised my security forces training came into play because I didn’t think I would have to use it,” Flores said. “They utilized my skills a lot, especially with firing, obstacle courses, anything out in the field and I am glad I had the prior knowledge to help meet their mission.”
The 737th Training Group Senior Enlisted Leader, Chief Master Sgt. Daniel P. Anderson, reported that Flores exceeded all expectations and was invited to participate in Fort Jackson’s graduation parade. She was recognized by the Command Chief of Air Education and Training Command during an MTI All Call upon her return. The Sergeant’s performance even earned her the prestigious Army Achievement Medal.
From San Juan, Texas, Flores is a proud Latina who says her strict and conservative upbringing contributed to a smooth transition into military life. Reflecting on her journey, Flores says she initially enlisted in the Air Force with the goal of serving only four years. She said she’s stayed blue mostly because of her deep affection for the person she has become professionally and personally during her time in the Air Force.
“I fell in love with who I was becoming, I fell in love with traveling, I fell in love with the independence I gained,” Flores said. “I also loved how I was constantly being challenged not only as an Airman or NCO but as a person and I feel like I’ve had nothing but blessings up until this point of my career.”
The selection process for the drill sergeant exchange program came about unexpectedly and swiftly for Flores. While she may not have been initially confident in her selection, she was unwavering in her commitment to perform to the best of her ability, showcasing the resilience and dedication characteristic of an Air Force Military Training Instructor. The drill sergeant exchange program was more than an exchange of drill instructors, it was also an exchange of experiences and valuable take-aways. One major takeaway for Flores from her time with the Army was their strategic emphasis on core values right from the start of their training.
She noted the significance of integrating heritage into the introduction of the Army’s core values to trainees. This approach left a lasting impression on Flores, highlighting the importance of instilling and prioritizing core values throughout the training process.
“They take so much pride in their heritage and their core values and I think we do too, but I think it could be implemented in a deeper way,” Flores said.
Flores says her family has been a pillar in her life and is at the center of everything she does; and adds what has helped her through her military career is sticking to her values and morals her parents have instilled in her and remaining humble and gracious.
“I’m not used to being the center of attention, I like to be humble about my experiences, I never like to showcase I did this, or I did that, but I am very humbled and very honored that I was even given this opportunity to represent the Air Force in such a great way,” she said.