Des Moines, Iowa --
It takes a village. For some, this means relying on family or friends to watch their kids for a date night or to pick them up from football practice. For many military members, 'it takes a village' takes on a deeper meaning. Deployments, TDYs, and training can take members from their families and kids for weeks or months at a time. Airman First Class Mackenzie Gutierrez, a geospatial intelligence analyst with the 232d Intelligence Squadron, experienced the need for her village early in her career with the 132d Wing.
From the beginning, Gutierrez wanted to serve a purpose greater than herself. Because of this feeling, she stepped out of her comfort zone and joined the Iowa Air National Guard. A short while later, Gutierrez became pregnant. Pushed by many to get out of the guard, Gutierrez remembers being told she’d be too emotional to continue, that it would be best for everyone if she left.
"I remember thinking that's not happening. That's not even an option. I made a commitment, and I'm going to stick to it. And not just because of that commitment, but to better myself,” said Gutierrez.
Staying true to her word and her obligation, at only six months postpartum, Gutierrez left for Basic Military Training (BMT). At that time, Gutierrez had to rely heavily on her baby’s father and both of their families. While she missed her daughter, she remains grateful to everyone who stepped up in her time of need, especially her daughter's dad and their families.
Gutierrez also remains grateful to the family she’s gained from the 132d Wing. In particular, Tech. Sgt. Dawn Dawson, a 232d IS intelligence analyst, has been one of her biggest mentors. Gutierrez recalled how Dawson continuously checked on her throughout student flight, training, and even after.
Dawson is sure that while Gutierrez has many challenges to face, juggling being a single mom, guard responsibilities, and school, the challenge never daunts her. Dawson said that Gutierrez continues to bring a can-do attitude to the mission.
“It has been great to watch A1C Gutierrez develop from a member of student flight to a fully trained intelligence analyst. I remember how eager she was to complete BMT and Tech School and dive completely into the intel job. She excelled in training and quickly moved into a real-world production role,” said Dawson.
As we recognize Women’s History Month, Gutierrez believes the observance should be about appreciating women that have gone through adversities and achieved things they never thought they were capable of. While it can be terrifying and difficult, Gutierrez says that serving has grown her, and she hopes to show other women all that’s possible.
As to why she chose the Air Force, Gutierrez said it’s because they statistically have the most women serving. And while it's a work in progress, Gutierrez hopes to continue seeing women, especially women of color, joining. She recognizes that those shared experiences can allow female servicemembers to progress and excel in the mission.
“Always remembering your whys is the biggest thing. Remembering ‘why am I here?’ and ‘why am I doing this?’ is important," said Gutierrez.