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First Sergeant's career a blessing to others

Honor guardsman hands folded American flag to crying female Airman.

An Eglin Air Force Base Honor Guard member hands a folded United States flag to Senior Master Sgt. Kimberly Perez, former 2nd Special Operations Squadron first sergeant, during her retirement ceremony, at Duke Field, Florida, May 1, 2021. Perez served in the first sergeant position for eleven years prior to her retirement. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dylan Gentile)

Two women in dress blues hold a certificate on a stage.

Senior Master Sgt. Kimberly Perez, former 2nd Special Operations Squadron first sergeant, displays here retirement certificate along with Col. Leslie Hadley, 403rd Wing vice commander, during her ceremony at Duke Field, Florida, May 1, 2021. Perez served as a first sergeant for the 711th SOS, 2nd SOS, and the 919th Special Operations Support Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dylan Gentile)

Woman in dress blues receives wand.

Retired Senior Master Sgt. Kimberly Perez, former 2nd Special Operations Squadron first sergeant, holds a gifted stylized wand during her retirement ceremony at Duke Field, Florida, May 1, 2021. Perez earned the nickname “Fairy Godmother” due to her reputation for helping Airmen of all ranks throughout her 36 years in the service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dylan Gentile)

Man in kelt leads woman down aisle while playing bagpipes.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Steve Bicknell leads newly retired Senior Master Sgt. Kimberley Perez, former 2nd Special Operations Squadron first sergeant, and her family out of her retirement ceremony while playing the U.S. Air Force song at Duke Field, Florida, May 1, 2021. During the retirement, Perez pinned a personalized tag on the Duke Field first sergeant’s guidon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dylan Gentile)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- Citizen Airmen often serve long and storied careers in the Air Force Reserve. It’s less common for members to earn the distinction of serving 35 years like Senior Master Sgt. Kim Perez, first sergeant for the 2nd Special Operations Squadron. Perez celebrated her retirement ceremony at Duke Field, Florida, on May 1, 2021, exactly 36 years to the day from her active-duty enlistment.

“I spent four years on active duty,” said Perez. “Then I got out of the military, but I missed being in uniform and enlisted in the Reserve in August 1990.”

Perez’s first duty station was overseas as a corrosion control specialist in aircraft maintenance. She then became a medical technician in the Reserve for 16 years, serving at four different bases and deploying in support of Operation Desert Storm. Being a spouse of an active duty member also forced Perez to learn balance with her Reserve career, family, life and civilian work. Learning to balance it all while moving to different units gave her an understanding of how she could work to make things better.

“It takes a lot to balance it all,” said Perez. “Sometimes our personal lives are so busy, when you add in the [Unit Training Assembly], it forces you to be more detail oriented and learn to communicate better with your supervisors so everyone can come together to make it all work.”

Working with so many different people and learning different leadership styles helped Perez as she moved to Airmen & Family Readiness. Her desire to help others led her to become a first sergeant and eventually earned her the nickname “Fairy Godmother."

In past fables, a fairy godmother is someone who acts as a mentor or parent to another and are often portrayed as kind and compassionate.

“One can only hope to have the energy and passion she has to help others,” said Chief Master Christina Bicknell, 919 Special Operations Mission Support Group superintendent. “The definition of a fairy godmother describes Sergeant Perez perfectly.”

Perez served as a first sergeant for 11 years with three different units in the 919th Special Operations Wing. She focused her knowledge and experience on helping others get their wishes granted. She assisted in submitting nine successful Stripes for Exceptional Performers promotions for outstanding members in the units she served. One of her fondest memories during her career is when she helped another Airman earn a promotion.

“One of the members I was a part of their STEP promotion was Chief Master Sgt. Darlene Peterson,” Perez recalled. “She was so deserving of being a chief and she didn't think it would be possible, especially through the STEP program [which is often very competitive]. The day I was told she was selected I cried with joy for her and felt so proud I got to be part of her career.”

She went on to assist in the STEP promotions of nine Citizen Airmen in more than three decades of service.

Perez also served as the committee chairman for several family day events at Duke Field. She often ensured members of the Wing required to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas always had catered meals in many cases setting up workcenters with a holiday theme and delivering food and beverages herself.

Her penchant for helping others became a hallmark for her career according to her squadron’s leadership.

“Sergeant Perez's retirement ceremony was the culmination of a long and fruitful career,” said Lt. Col. Mark Jones, 2nd SOS commander. “She ended her uniformed service on the same day she started many years ago.

“I chose those words specifically—'ended her uniformed service'—because we all know she will not sit still, and many helping agencies have already begun recruiting her for the next phase of her service,” Jones added. “This moment is bittersweet in the truest sense of the word. I stared at this page for a long time, and the moment leaves me nearly speechless. The Shirt has been a model of what it looks like when leaders serve, and we are forever indebted in our gratitude to her.”