Tanya was the first born to Debra and William Alford on Veteran’s Day, 1980 in Findlay Ohio. She was joined later by siblings Jason, Brittany and Jared.
There are several generations of military service in Tanya’s life, with her dad serving in Thailand with the Army and her grandfather serving during the Korean War.
Tanya graduated from Marion-Franklin High School in Columbus. She spent most her junior and senior year studying off campus at Eagle’s Nest, an equine ranch where she studied Equine Science Management through the Southeast Career Center. In high school she enjoyed her art classes and working with horses.
“I was a great student but a horrible test taker usually getting B grades.”
An Air Force recruiter came out to the ranch in December of 1998 and once he mentioned “college benefits” Tanya was all in.
“Plus, I had told my mother I would be out of her house by the time I was 18. I was three months away from my 19th birthday when I left for bootcamp.”
Tanya’s choices were to join either the Navy or Air Force as both had regular contact with planes and she “loved being high up.” After taking her ASVAB and passing her physical Tanya entered the delayed entry program, taking her oath in May of 1999. On August 31st Tanya boarded a plane headed to Lackland AFB in San Antonio Texas. Basic training started for her on September 1st, 1999.
“The first week was the hardest as this was the first time I had ever been away from home for a long period.”
Tanya learned quickly what all vets learn early in basic training, “NEVER VOLUNTEER OR GET YOURSELF NOTICED!” When she revealed her birthday was on Veterans Day, she became the “spotlight” for her TI and every other TI in that squadron for the next four weeks of training. Tanya’s favorite part of training was week “5” which included the obstacle course.
Tanya was assigned the 3FI Services MOS and moved to Medina AFB for training where she stayed for the next two months. Airman Alford’s first permanent duty station was Malmstrom AFB located near Great Falls, Montana.
Tanya shares her experience at Malmstrom,
“I didn’t get the opportunity to travel anywhere. I was also quite bummed at the fact that out of all the Air Force Bases in the world, I ended up on the ONLY AFB that had NO planes, an overgrown, unused airfield, and only ONE helicopter of which I never even had the chance to ride in. The only other things that could fly were missiles, which you KNEW YOU were SCREWED if you see them launch!”
Tanya was initially assigned to work at the base gym for two months until she tore a ligament in her ankle that sidelined her. Upon her return to duty she was transferred to the 12th Missile Squadron/341st Operations Group where she served as a Missile Chef for the next 2.5 years. With the exception of one particular NCO, she got along with other members of the 12th, enlisted and officers alike. Tanya says the “experience was very positive.”
“My only real regret is not hearing about the ROTC program in high school as participation in ROTC would have bolstered my rank and opened other career opportunities for me.”
Tanya met and married a fellow airman Nathan Sylvia at Malmstrom. He was still on active duty when her tour was over, so she never left the base after her discharge. “My status went from Active Duty Military to Military Spouse. I lived on the base for another two years before moving to start college.”
Her transition from military duty back to civilian life was “strange at first.”
“It felt strange not needing to follow orders, being able to stay at home with no assignments that needed finished. But the transition was easier for me, I think, than for others just because I didn’t actually leave the base, nor did I have to immediately figure out what I was going to do post military life.”
Tanya used the GI Bill to attend college.
“Not knowing what I wanted to major in I allowed someone else to choose Nursing for me. I did graduate with a nursing degree and have worked primarily in the home healthcare industry. There are definitely things I enjoy in Nursing, but ultimately it hasn’t felt like the right career for my personality.”
Tanya has a love and talent for art especially for sketching and painting. She attended college to learn more about Art. She is currently close to completing a two-year Medical Coding and Billing certification, hopefully by summer 2020.
Tanya is the mother of three children. Her oldest will graduate early from high school this year and start college in the Fall.
Tanya’s summation of her military experience and advice to other young women considering military service as a career option is:
“I will never regret my decision to join the Air Force. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t. You get free training in the military that transfers toward college credits. It is a good time to get away from home and spread your wings while learning what it takes to be an adult, take care of yourself, simultaneously having a net under you, if this proves a little overwhelming.
Being a part of something so important and so much bigger than yourself helps women bolster their feelings of confidence and self-worth. This is something that most women struggle with, especially when hitting that transition between older teen and adulthood. Even if you don’t want the military to be a lifelong career, it can be an amazing steppingstone into your future. One that you will never regret when looking at it from behind!”
For women seriously considering the military Tanya suggests,
“If you are still in High School, I would advise you to seek out and learn more about the ROTC programs in your area. If you have already graduated from high school, you can always join the Reserves first and transition into Active Duty later. Finally, if you are currently in college, please still consider joining the military and taking advantage of the GI Bill!”
Thank you for your service Tanya Alford Sylvia!! Good luck in your future!