AAPI Heritage Spotlight: SMSgt. Williamson of the 21st MDG

  • Published
  • By Kristian DePue, Staff Writer
  • Space Base Delta 1 Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Daisy Salas Williamson, 21st Medical Group first sergeant, is a second-generation American of Filipino and Chamorro decent who deeply appreciates the celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, observed each May.

A joint resolution was signed by President Carter in 1978 to proclaim an annual week-long celebration of Asian and Pacific Islanders in America. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush, signed a bill passed by Congress to extend the observed week into a full month.

“Any month in which we celebrate culture is important. For me, this month is personal because I can contribute to educating folks on where we, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, come from,” said Williamson. “We get one month to do it, so why not share it? We bring all these different cultures together with the expectation to execute the mission. It’s important we share our story and culture so others understand, then we can better work together and execute the mission together.”

Williamson and her sister, Bernadette Salas Stroklund, spoke about their lineage in Guam and explained how the island’s name originated.

“When Sailors came to Guam, the Chamorros ran out to sell fruit saying ‘Guahan,’ which means ‘I have’,” said Stroklund, retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class. “We give what we have. It’s our way of welcoming you. When we invite you into our homes, we will cook you a feast and celebrate with music and dance. Our culture runs deep in our veins, and it bleeds into everything we touch. Both of our heritages, Filipino and Chamorro, are known for a strong respect of our elders, generosity and hospitality.” 

The 21st MDG is part of the Colorado Springs Military Health System and has operating locations at Peterson Space Force Base, Schriever SFB and Cheyenne Mountain Space Force Station. As a first sergeant, Williamson works closely with the Airmen of the 21st MDG, and acts as a liaison between the teams and leadership.

“First sergeant Williamson is awesome. As soon as I found out that she’s from Guam, I was freaking out,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brandie Bleess, 21st MDG family health technician. “Our first sergeant works right alongside our commander — and as for the Airmen’s needs, she really takes care of us.”

Bleess was stationed in Guam for two years prior to being stationed at Peterson SFB — and has been selected as the June 2022 Outstanding Performer of the Month for Space Base Delta 1.

“She has talents that very few both possess and balance with such grace: a true caring heart, a strong desire to help our Airmen and an unmatched dedication to service,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Vicars, 21st MDG senior enlisted leader. “Williamson is the true definition of a servant leader, tirelessly putting our personnel before herself. “It’s comforting that she’s is watching out for, and over, our medics. It’s truly a pleasure to serve next to her. I could talk for days about the awesome things she does for us.”

Retired U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jason France, who Williamson has known for 15 years and considers her a mentor, also praises the 21st MDG first sergeant:

“I served with [Williamson] for three years in an organization with an extremely high-operation tempo, and I had the privilege of deploying with her twice to Iraq. I’ve watched her grow through the ranks. Her leadership and passion for taking care of Airmen and families has been remarkable throughout her journey. Additionally, the example she sets as a military mother is incredible — she continues to inspire others to overcome the challenges that serving our nation can present a family.”

Williamson’s own parents grew up with very little, lacking a refrigerator, washing machine and a car. They made their own clothes and shoes. With that upbringing, they in-turn instilled a strong work ethic in their children.

Like her father, Williamson also earned her Jump Wings from the U.S. Army Airborne School. Williamson’s father was a Paratrooper in the U.S. Army, so joining the service and attending Jump School was fitting for someone who values heritage.

Williamson graduated from the course in 2008 from Ft. Benning, Ga., and later was afforded the opportunity to attend Jumpmaster School and worked with over 14 different countries in that capacity. 

“I learned how to lead, follow and value relationships in the Airborne community, which has bled into who I am today,” said Williamson. 

“All those years jumping has shown me that pain is weakness leaving the body, both mentally and physically — these life lessons taught me how to value self-care and to help others when they need to take a knee or help carrying a load,” said Williamson. “Most of all, I learned that your brothers and sisters-in-arms do not always have to speak the same language, look the same or even wear the same uniform.”

Now, the first sergeant exemplifies those virtues amongst the personnel that make up the 21st MDG.

“[Williamson] is our heritage and culture,” stressed Stroklund, her sister. “She exemplifies a warrior and portrays the best of our culture in everything. She’s committed to excellence, driven by passion and has a devotion to family. She has worked hard to succeed in her service to the Air Force and proudly represents the Asian American Pacific Islanders. My che’lu (sister), I’m so proud of her.”

“Guahan” is a word of generosity, and Williamson has passion, wisdom and work ethic to generously give to not only the 21st MDG, but also the SBD 1, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Space Force and her country.