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From Uncertainty to Confidence: One Airman's Voyage to Success

Airman in Japanese garden.

Senior Airman Kembria Mims, 374th Operation Support Squadron host aviation resources manager, shares her journey to making Senior Airman Below the Zone. BTZ is a program that promotes exemplary airmen from airman first class to senior airman six months early. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt Miquel Jordan)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan --

Everyone deals with trials and tribulations, but what matters most is how a person takes those obstacles and turns them into victories.

Senior Airman Kembria Mims, 374th Operation Support Squadron host aviation resources manager, dealt with her fair share of let downs growing up, but her story is a reflection of what it means when you leave your troubles in the past and come out triumphant.  

“When I was three years old, my father walked out of my and my mother’s lives, and he never looked back,” said Mims, who at the age of 12, was made aware the same man who left her remained in her siblings’ lives. “I felt inferior, hurt – I couldn’t help but wonder what could possibly be wrong with me? My self-esteem was affected greatly, but most of all my confidence.”

This became a driving factor of the uncertainty she would face for years to come. The fear of failure crippled her will to participate in typical school activities like sports or academic clubs. Higher education never carried a thought in her mind, she admitted.

“Then one day everything changed. My aunt, who worked at our home military base, handed me a U.S. Air Force brochure,” Mims expressed as a simple smile came across her face and the octave in her voice slightly rose. “In that moment, I decided to start living for myself.”

That is exactly what she did when she decided to join the ranks like so many before her to become a U.S. Airman. “I found that there was purpose in my pain and I wouldn’t allow my father’s absence to affect me anymore.”

“When I arrived to Yokota in 2018, I informed my leadership that I wanted [Senior Airman] Below the Zone (BTZ). From that point on, they advised, mentored and provided me with opportunities to achieve my goal.” She went on, “I’ve been blessed and fortunate with so many leaders, great mentors and peers that have helped me along the way, and have helped me rebuild my confidence.”

Being given the opportunity to participate in activities with our sister branches, like U.S. Marine Corps Professional Military Enhancement courses, assisting the base First Four organization and being the president for her dorm council are a few contributions she’s made during her time in the service. Not to mention, she also took on the task of news editor for her squadron’s newsletter – quite a contrast to the young lady who avoided being a part of her school’s extracurricular activities because she didn’t feel she was capable.  

Mims’ diligence and resilience eventually earned her an early promotion through the BTZ program. Her story is a precursor to what she hopes is a prosperous career and encouragement to whoever might be dealing with similar setbacks.

Mims’ wingmen across the ranks, along with her hard work, motivation and dedication, helped her reach her BTZ goal and she’s showing no signs of slowing down. In the words of the late rapper Nipsey Hussle, Mims “reached every goal [she] actually set, had to sit back down and rearrange that list,” and that’s exactly what she’s done.

As for those new ambitions, “For the short term, I want to get my Community College of the Air Force degree by summer. Long term, my bachelor’s degree,” she said. “My plan right now is to retire from the Air Force.

“I came in as a four-year enlistee and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but now I’m sold on a career in the Air Force – I love the structure that the military provides.”

When asked if there were any people, in particular, she attributed to her current success, Mims listed two individuals: Tech Sgt. Michaelangelo Mesina and Master Sgt. April Martinez, both of the 374 OSS.

“Tech Sgt. Mesina specifically, helped me a lot, stepping out of the supervisory role with things in life I didn’t know, coming into the Air Force,” she continued, “with Master Sgt. Martinez being a female in the male-dominated military, her mentorship has helped me as well.”

A rule of thumb Mims lives by is putting in the work for the best results, not the recognition. “I’m not a stripe chaser,” she explained, “I believe in getting your role down pact and learning all that needs to be learned as far as your career field and rank goes, verses me just putting a stripe on just to say I have it.”

For future hopefuls looking to be the next BTZ recipient for their squadron, or just someone considering a career in the Air Force, Mims left these words. “Step outside your comfort zone. I didn’t have the push or the drive to do most things because of my lack of confidence, but I feel that if I would’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone and not backed away from things when they got tough, it would’ve been easier for me to transition into what I wanted to do in life.

“For me, the leap jumping into the Air Force – that’s the biggest confidence move I’ve ever made.”