From soldier to student


Photo courtesy of Sanya Crocker

Sanya Crocker on duty in the U.S Air Force.

This semester is coming to an end, it’s crunch time and Skyline student Sonya Crocker, due to her military backround, knows how to manage her stress.

Two months after high school, at the age of 18, she made a courageous decision to join the military, and go into the Air Force.

“I lived in a really rural area and there weren’t any opportunities and I was young and I wanted to see the world, so I did,” Crocker said.

Before she was even born, Crocker’s dad had been a nurse in the Vietnam War. She also had an uncle who retired from the Navy, and another who was in the Army so after hearing about their experiences she felt prepared and knew what to expect going into it.

Crocker’s rank was Technical Sargent. During her first year in the Air Force she became a meteorologist. She continued as a meteorologist for six years, and that position provided great opportunities. One of her favorite memories was when she forecasted the weather for Bill and Hilary Clinton’s plane when they landed in Germany and, ultimately, she was able to meet them.

Crocker then pursued graphic arts for three years, which now helps her do many things outside of the military, for friends and for school.

“During your first deployment you really learn a lot about yourself and how resilient people are,” Crocker said. “So I think that’s just more a personal feeling, like now I know I can do really difficult things, so when classes get really hard I know I can get through it.”

Traveling was Crocker’s favorite aspect of the military.

“Living in Germany at 18 was just incredible,” Crocker said. “I would say the three years I lived there was definitely one of the highlights and I’m still friends with all those people and it’s been like 15 years.”

Crocker was able to visit 23 countries in total during her service, and says Ireland was her favorite.

“I lived in a lot of places as a kid,” Crocker said. “I went to 10 different schools growing up so moving around was never an issue for me.”

Crocker learned so much during her service, but two key skills she gained are self-discipline and respect.

“You learn so many (skills). I think the biggest one is doing things even when you don’t want to do them,” Crocker said. “Always treat people with respect even the people you don’t like, that’s something that has carried with me really far, don’t gossip about people because you don’t know what people are going through.”

Crocker also learned not to let people walk all over her.

“Speak your mind but in a respectful way don’t just start yelling at someone, but if you have a complaint then offer a suggestion.”

Unfortunately, Crocker experienced some sexual harassment in the Air Force, which definitely taught her to have thick skin, and use her voice to speak out when she needs to.

“Sexual harassment is a big deal in the military especially being deployed,” Crocker said. “It’s just everywhere. I had to report a couple of people for sexual harassment and I don’t have thin skin so it’s not just jokes or stuff like that, but people will try and physically harass you and that’s unacceptable.”

She learned how to speak up for herself. With that, she broke out of her shell and gained great communication skills that now help her in school. Because of her Air Force experience, speaking aloud and presenting in front of a class doesn’t even make her break sweat.

One obstacle Crocker encountered was feeling lonely during the holidays. Normally, getting homesick wasn’t a problem because she had her colleagues to keep her company.

“When I was in the military I loved it,” Crocker said. “I think it’s because you have a different kind of family in the military and a lot of you aren’t with your family during the holidays so we all just get together.”

She recalls that her only time ever being homesick was when she was deployed over Christmas. At that time, Crocker’s mom became really sick.

“I was overseas so I couldn’t be there for her so I think that was the hardest part about being away from home,” Crocker said.

After leaving the Air Force, Crocker was able to reunite with her mom and be there to support her, and in the end, the good outweighed the bad.

“Being a Veteran allowed me to go to Stanford for a quarter,” Crocker said. “I got a scholarship last summer for that and that’s a huge accomplishment for me.”

Within just six months of leaving the Air Force, Crocker became a federal investigator. However a federal investigator wasn’t the right fit for Crocker so she went back to school to pursue a career she was interested in.

One of Crocker’s duties during her service was combat first aid instruction, which she really enjoyed. She was intrigued and gained interest in working in the medical field now herself. She plans to transfer to UC Davis to earn her BS in Physical Anthropology, with hopes to become a doctor in the future.

After being in the Air Force for most of her adult life being back at school was a little different for Crocker, she missed that sense of camaraderie that she had in the Air Force. It was different being at school because everyone is different ages, doing different things, and has different majors. It was something Crocker had to get used to. Nevertheless, Crocker is very driven and determined to get through this semester and work hard to accomplish her goals. Utilizing her perseverance that she gained from the Air Force, Crocker puts that all to use in her education and schoolwork.

This semester has been intense for Crocker who is taking 17 units, but that’s nothing compared to what she’s been through. When asked about her transition from being in the military to being back at school she said, “I’ve just treated it as if it’s something that I have to adapt to and you get pretty good at that in the military so it hasn’t been that bad.”