Her story: Silva tells how it was

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sarah Williams
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

With a nostalgic voice, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Georgina Silva, 17th Security Forces military working dog handler, recounted the trials she faced throughout the course of her life.

“I didn’t have the best childhood growing up,” said Silva. “Almost everyone in my family had substance abuse and it was really hard to depend on others.”

Silva was denied car rides to work as she grew older.

“If I asked for a ride I was told ‘no’ or ‘this is the last time I’m driving you’,” said Silva. “I was tired of depending on others, so I started walking three miles to work.”

Through the troubles Silva faced, she was able to find a glimpse of happiness which sparked a passion for the rest of her life.

“I didn’t have it easy growing up, but I always ran to animals,” said Silva. “People on my street always knew who I was when I walked with my great dane. I was crazy about animals. I knew every species of dog.”

Silva’s love for animals would drive her devotion to the work she pursued.

“I wanted to be a veterinarian and work with animals,” said Silva. “If I did that though, I would have to stay in the same place with the same stress. I didn’t want to do that, I needed a way out.”

Silva would take the experiences she encountered throughout her life and career and set out to become the best security forces military working dog handler.

Silva was 17 when she entered into the recruiter's office.

“I walked in willing to work hard at any job the Air Force offered,” said Silva. “Surprisingly, my recruiter was security forces. He told me this job wouldn’t be easy, especially for a woman.”

Silva would face a lot of challenges at her first base, from learning her job to handling sexism.

“In a flight of 30, there were only five females,” said Silva. “I was told I only got things because I was pretty or because I was a girl. There was a lot of favoritism.”

Silva continued to face challenges throughout her first deployment.

The phone lights up as ringing echoes through the room, Silva receives a call she will never forget.

“I was about to get ready for work when I got the call,” said Silva. “I could hear it in their voice as they asked, ‘Are you sitting down?’ I was in total disbelief as they told me one of my friends had committed suicide.”

Five days later, Silva received another call.

“This time, it was my childhood best friend,” said Silva. “I was supposed to see her soon. At this point, I had begun to stop talking. I couldn’t believe that two of my friends had passed away in the same week.”

Only two weeks passed before Silva received a third painful phone call, she had lost her uncle to COVID-19.

More than halfway through her eight month deployment in Qatar, Silva lost a wingman, a friend, and a family member in three short weeks. 

“That was the hardest time I have ever had to go through,” said Silva. “Being halfway around the world, but then coming back and realizing the people I lost were not there anymore.”

Returning from her deployment, Silva finally received good news, she had been accepted to become a military working dog handler.

“My contract was almost up and I wasn’t going to reenlist, but being a military working dog handler was my dream,” said Silva. “I had tried three times, but something always happened. I didn’t want to tell anyone this time, so I waited until I graduated to tell my friends.”

Silva received more good news upon her return from deployment.

“When I got back, I was not only accepted into the canine school, but my flight was full of females,” said Silva. “My flight chief, supervisor, and most of my wingmen were women.”

With the support of the new flight, Silva began to heal from the friends and family she had lost during her deployment.

“It was inspiring to be around so many empowering females,” said Silva. “I now plan to take the experiences and resilience I have gained and help others, not just in security forces, but across all the branches here at Goodfellow.”

Silva now pays forward the opportunities the Air Force has provided by supporting and inspiring others along the way.

“If I didn’t have the military, I don’t know where I would be,” said Silva.