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Soto’s story: Overcoming pain and finding purpose

Airman 1st Class Jocelyn Soto holds a painting of her and her mother.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jocelyn Soto, 325th Security Forces Squadron visitors center clerk, holds a painting of her and her mother at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, July 15, 2021. Soto’s mother passed away from breast cancer in 2011, which was a motivating factor in Soto’s decision to enlist in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anabel Del Valle)

Airman 1st Class Jocelyn Soto smiles as she types on a computer.

Airman 1st Class Jocelyn Soto, 325th Security Forces Squadron visitors center clerk, types on a computer at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, July 14, 2021. Soto is a proud first-generation American and the only person in her family to serve in the United States military. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anabel Del Valle)

Airman 1st Class Jocelyn Soto holds a painting of her and her mother.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jocelyn Soto, 325th Security Forces Squadron visitors center clerk, holds a painting of her and her mother, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, July 15, 2021. Soto was gifted the painting during basic military training to remember her mother who passed away from breast cancer in 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anabel Del Valle)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

As Tyndall evolves into the “Installation of the Future,” the base is working with thousands of contractors, vendors, and other guests who are assisting in the rebuild process. One of the first faces they see at Tyndall’s visitors center is Airman 1st Class Jocelyne Soto.

Soto, a Dallas, Texas, native, is in charge of ensuring all individuals attempting to gain access to base have the required credentials and complete a background check. Soto also issues hundreds of passes a week, allowing Tyndall’s Airmen and guests to have the proper credentials while on the installation.

Soto prides herself on her contributions reinforcing the base’s security. She made the decision to enlist in the Air Force to create a purposeful career after facing challenges that greatly impacted her outlook on life.

“My mom passed away due to breast cancer when I was 14,” said Soto, a 325th Security Forces Squadron visitor’s center clerk. "My mom was the definition of strength and courage. Losing her is one of my biggest heartaches.”

The loss of Soto’s mother and a divorce turned her once comforting hometown into a place of sadness. She felt her life was stagnant and there was no progress in her professional or personal life.

“When I left for the Air Force, it felt like a breath of fresh air,” said Soto. “I wanted to continue my education and I wanted to challenge myself with something entirely out of my comfort zone. Doors began to open; I found love again, I became independent and I healed from past traumas.”

During Soto’s eight and a half week basic military training, she relied on her mother’s memory and her family’s support to get her to graduation. Soto’s leadership is now there to support her however they can.

“It is an honor to serve with Airman Soto,” said Senior Airman Brandon Young, 325th SFS visitor control center private investigator and Soto’s supervisor. “You look at her work and you can tell she loves what she does. The Air Force is lucky to have her, I have no doubt she will do great things wherever she goes.”

Soto is a first-generation American with her parents emigrating from Mexico before she was born. Her family was in disbelief when she first voiced her decision to enlist, but now instead of one family, Soto has two.

“We wear our names on our chest and I’m proud to be Soto, but I’m also proud to be an Airman in the United States Air Force,” said Soto. “Both name tapes represent family to me. Soto on my right and U.S. Air Force on my left, they are two different families I have, two different support systems and they are the reason I’m able to do all I do.”

Soto has been able to discover new things to keep up her spirits since enlisting. She enjoys exploring the local area for small boutiques and coffee shops, where she journals to help clear her mind. Being far from home, another one of her favorite pastimes is calling her family.

 “Taking a chance and enlisting took strength and courage, two things I learned from my mother,” said Soto. “I was scared. Now I am here, I couldn’t be more proud of how far I’ve come, from a scared woman walking into the recruiter’s office to the Airman I am today. I like to think my mom is proud of the young lady she had the chance to raise.”