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Strategic Management Annex

AETC civilian’s 35-year journey

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- There are many success stories in the Air Force of military and civilian Airmen who have worked their way from initial entry positions to levels of unique responsibility. Elizabeth Tijerina, Air Education and Training Command’s Office of Small Business Programs director, is one of those success stories.

A native of Laredo, Texas, Tijerina graduated from high school in 1980 and moved to San Antonio after marrying her high school sweetheart who was working at Kelly Air Force Base. Within months of her move, Tijerina applied for and entered her first Air Force civilian position in 1982, as a GS-03 clerk-typist. More than 35 years later, Tijerina reflected on why she first decided to become an Air Force civilian and what motivated her through the journey to where she is today.

“I was attracted by the competitive pay and the great benefits and stayed because of the developmental opportunities,” Tijerina said.

As a federal employee who is currently a GS-13 office director, Tijerina learned quickly that she controlled her own career. Moving into the procurement career field was a result of Tijerina taking charge of her own career and spending many off-duty classroom hours achieving her bachelor’s degree in human resources. She later served in a career broadener position with the contracting career field management team, making time again in her off-duty time to earn a master’s degree in management and leadership.

It was not uncommon for Tijerina to volunteer for tasks that took her out of her comfort zone.

“I learned early on in my career that taking on added duties and responsibilities can go a long way, especially if you do a good job,” said Tijerina. “This is a great way to get noticed by upper management and it sets you apart from other employees.”

Tijerina gives much credit for her success to supervisors who took interest in her potential starting from those early days with the Air Force. “I wondered sometimes, ‘Why am I (a GS-7) giving this briefing,?” she said. “Why am I answering this general’s questions?’ ”

When asked if she would change anything about her career, Tijerina laughed and explained that her childhood dream was to become a pharmacist. She now basks in the fact that her youngest son is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in pharmacy.

When it’s all said and done, she is glad things worked out the way they did. She said she would not trade her experiences for anything. She is still married to her high school sweetheart, has two sons and two grandsons, and has had the opportunity to travel to Germany, Spain, England, Jordan, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

When asked what she would say to someone considering becoming an Air Force civilian employee, Tijerina was quick to answer.

“You can make more money in the private sector, but, this is an honest living with job security and there are great opportunities,” she said. “Maintaining a positive attitude, setting goals, improving skills and understanding the value of an education can open many doors.”