JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Delays led to dreams coming true for one young adult from Medford, Oregon, who always had her eyes toward the stars.
Felicia Barringer was selected for a once in a life time opportunity to join the Air Force as a space systems operator in spring of 2020 but her journey to serve, as three generations before her did, started on a rocky trail in summer of 2017.
“She is my one and only recruit I was able to put in this career field since I became a recruiter in 2017,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Porter, of the 361st Recruiting Squadron. “Determination makes her different. She didn’t give up when trying to get qualified to serve. Whenever we needed her to go check up on things she’d do it without question.”
The 21 year-old said she owes it all to her family and her recruiter for helping her stay hopeful.
“It was my goal for a long time to join the Air Force because my dad was in for 10 years,” Barringer said. “I enjoyed the atmosphere I grew up being raised on multiple bases. I knew it would be a great opportunity for a job in aerospace engineering too.”
However, she recognized that her town was not exactly the place to fill her dreams or launch her into space as an astronaut. Medford schools aren’t known for those degrees and the nearest Air Force installation is six hours away.
“I worked a lot of odd jobs to figure out what to do and how to go to college and what I needed to support myself,” Barringer said about the disappointing blow to her dream. “There wasn’t a lot I could do financially.”
So she began the process to join the Air Force. After her first trip to the Military Entrance Processing Station in 2017, she also learned doctors had medical reasons to disqualify her. Even though she was initially denied, she didn’t give up. She got the documentation they needed and took every test suggested.
Although she admits it was disappointing, she comes from a lineage of tenacity. She is the fourth generation to serve but heard other relatives may have served as well.
“I learned this legacy from my grandparents,” Barringer said. “My great grandfather was in the Army Air Corps and retired as a major from the Air Force. He was there when the Air Force first became a thing.”
The space enthusiast said she thought it was “cool” he was one of the first to transfer into a new branch of the U.S. military and now she’ll do the same. Her great grandfather served during the Berlin Airlift, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. She also had another other great grandfather who was enlisted as a staff sergeant during the Korean War.
Barringer’s father served 10 years as an explosive ordnance disposal technician and is now a local law enforcement officer. Her grandfather served as the First Sergeant at the 2nd Space Warning Squadron and an Air Force recruiter in Medford before he retired with 20 years of service.
Her determination to continue family tradition made a breakthrough in 2020 when a new doctor cleared her medically qualified to serve.
“I think she showed up to that MEPs three times this year,” Porter said. “She got accepted in March 2020 but a delay in shipping caused by COVID-19 canceled the job we had her slotted for.”
The stars she looked at through a telescope her grandfather gave her aligned and something she never thought possible happened next. A job opening came up for space systems operations.
“It felt like a miracle,” Barringer said. “I’ve had a passion and an interest in space for as long as I can remember. Dad would teach me about the stars, planets and black holes and tell me how it all worked. After grandpa bought me that telescope I thought I wanted to be an astronaut.”
Everything was worth the wait. The delays added up to making it possible for the young adult to fulfill her vision of serving her country in a dream job right at the time the U.S. Space Force was new and needed people like her to keep America’s access to space secure.
Barringer stays up to date with NASA news and space launches. She even saw how the space industry was hurting for applicants and how the space business was on the rise. Hearing about the creation of the U.S. Space Force inspired her. However, she didn’t know how her six credits at her local community college would get her there.
“You have to have a real passion for it,” Porter said about what makes a good candidate for space systems operations.
Not only that, Barringer exceeded the mandatory high ASVAB score of 70 in electronics necessary for the job.
“I hope that if I can’t go to space, I hope I can make it so future generations can go to space,” Barringer said.
The future Airman is expected to graduate Basic Military Training Nov. 12, 2020. After that, Barringer will begin her 76 days of technical training. It is estimated she’ll swear into the U.S. Space Force early 2021, upon graduating courses at the space operations career field schoolhouse in California.