LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. — The coolness of the metal spread over the left side of her face as she gently laid her cheek on the buttstock of an M24 sniper weapon system.
“Send it!” The command was given.
She emptied the hot air from her lungs and peered through the sweat dripping from her brow down the rifle’s scope as she slowly squeezed the trigger.
The only sounds able to pierce through the foam barriers wedged in her ears were the commands given and the explosions of weapons being fired in the distance. The blast from the barrel jolted her back, which caught her off guard, but she quickly regained her focus and waited on the next command from her spotter.
Senior Airman Jennifer Gamez, 19th Security Forces Squadron installation entry controller, qualified as the first female advanced designated marksman in approximately five years.
ADM training was nowhere in the scope of opportunities for Gamez when she considered joining the Air Force. She worked as a civilian in the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland dining facility in San Antonio, Texas. After watching trainees day-in and day-out go through Basic Military Training, Gamez decided to join the Air Force.
In the moment she made that decision, Gamez began her journey of resilience.
She initially had a hard time finding a recruiter, but she didn’t give up. Once she found one, she struggled to pass the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery test. None of those challenges discouraged her. She was determined to join the less than one percent of Americans who protect their country through military service. Eventually, she passed, and her new life blasted into motion.
Gamez entered the security forces career field, and although she initially was not too excited about it, she grew to enjoy her job.
One day while Gamez was out working, she got a call to leave her post and come back to the squadron. Butterflies filled her stomach as she came to her flight chief’s office worried she had made a mistake on the job, unaware she was about to be chosen for a highly sought-after opportunity.
“I was scared I wasn’t going to do well,” Gamez said regarding her selection to qualify as an advance designated marksman. “One of my biggest fears is failure. My squadron was sending me and relying on me to pass, and I didn’t want to disappoint them.”
Despite her uncertainty in succeeding, Gamez traveled to Fort Bliss, Texas, with another security forces member to complete training.
ADM training qualifications rely heavily on individuals working in teams of a shooter and a spotter. To her surprise, Gamez’s journey of resilience continued when working as a team didn’t come as easy as she’d imagined. Being disconnected greatly affected the probability of qualifying, so she knew they’d have to dig deep and work harder.
“Your qualification is in your spotter’s hands, so they can fail you,” Gamez said. “If you don’t pass, you’re going home.”
Right before her first qualification, Gamez and her comrade came together, and like a well-assembled weapon, their execution was accurate and unstoppable.
From that moment forward, Gamez and her partner went above and beyond to pass the course. The trust they developed for one another helped Gamez achieve the title “Best Spotter” and her comrade “Best Shot.”
“It’s awesome how we got better at being able to trust each other,” Gamez said. “Trust is everything when it comes to qualifying at ADM training.”
Gamez and her comrade completed their training and returned to the 19th SFS as advanced designated marksmen. Gamez overcame her fear of failure and realized she could do more than she ever thought she could.
“They [19th SFS] chose me for a reason,” Gamez said. “They see something in me I don’t see in myself.”
Gamez continued to work in the squadron like normal until another individual came to her and congratulated her on becoming the first female in about five years to complete ADM training. Shocked, Gamez double-checked the information, and sure enough, she was notified of this incredible accomplishment.
She hopes that other females realize that if she can break through her fear of failure and complete ADM training, others can too.
“If I can do it, anybody can do it,” she said. “I passed ADM and know they can do it too.”
Gamez’s path of resilience gave her the ammunition it took to succeed. Every fear and uncertainty that crossed her path was one more challenge Gamez set her mind to overcome.
“Whenever my mind is set on something, I’m stuck on it,” Gamez said. “I’m going to finish it.”
And she did.