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Msgt Melissa Gavin and 2nd Lt Kendra Curran

Featured Article

A New Mexico Success Story:

How a Woman Found Herself in the Armed Forces

“My military journey began right outside these gates,” says Melissa Gavin, a native New Mexican who has been in the Air Force for the past eighteen and a half years. “My life wasn’t going anywhere good.” Gavin was a bill collector before enlisting. “I was turning into a mean person that wasn’t me [...] I had to make a change for myself.” So to better her life, she joined the service. “I’ve always wanted to get stationed back here in New Mexico,” she says, to be close to her family. Melissa grew up in Glorietta, New Mexico, and moved to Albuquerque in 1998. 

Melissa began her Air Force career as a fuel operator, driving fuel trucks and refueling vehicles and airplanes. “In fuels, it’s mainly a male career field,” Melissa explains. 

“If you’re a woman, they’re gonna look at you and say you can’t do it. [...] I’m not just a girl. I’m a person. My dad always told me, ‘anything a boy can do, a girl can do better.’ We can do anything we need to.” 

Melissa’s gumption and determination proved valuable. She worked in cryogenics and eventually became a chaplain assistant (now called religious affairs), primarily doing program management. “I do a lot of crisis management and triaging for people going through a hard time,” she says, which for her is a more fulfilling path than the one she was on prior to enlisting. Throughout her long military career, Melissa has been on six deployments, including Afghanistan and Iraq, and has been stationed in Japan, Korea, Honduras, and numerous cities across the United States. 

“You learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” she says. “Change is inevitable when you’re in the military.” Melissa hopes to retire after she reaches her twenty-year military milestone, and become a park ranger so she can give back to her community. 

One of her fondest memories of being in the military involves just that — giving back and making a positive impact on others. While on a deployment, Melissa recorded service members reading books on camera — so the bedtime stories could be mailed to their children, who missed their parents desperately while they were overseas.

“I would go to different installations and take a backpack with me [...] traveling to different locations, visiting with units. I’d set up a time for service members to read to their kids. There was one particular person stationed out of Canon… This Major went and gave me a big hug.”

The Major had just gotten a picture of his child watching the video. The peace and calm it brought his son was priceless.

“When I think I’m not doing my best,” she says, “I think about those personal relationships [...] that make a big impact on you and others.” And that’s what keeps her going after all these years.

  • Msgt Melissa Gavin and 2nd Lt Kendra Curran
  • Msgt Melissa Gavin running with Nico Griego