By Airman 1st Class Alexis Christian | Peterson-Schriever Garrison
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — After 14 years in the U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Shaneka Hunter, the 721st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of cyber intelligence transferred to the U.S. Space Force as Space Delta 2’s first African-American female, Feb. 2, 2021, at Peterson Air Force Base Colorado.
The Claxton, Georgia, native’s military and personal experiences have given Space Delta 2 leadership a motivated and eager noncommissioned officer for their Airmen and Guardians.
“Being on my own at such an early age forced me to become my own biggest support system,” said Hunter. “I had no choice but to set goals and push myself to succeed in everything I do. Doing this enabled me to consistently progress in life with the drive and motivation to sustain any, if not all of my goals.”
That mentality has pushed Hunter into a wide variety of situations. Seven years ago she heard about obstacle course races and decided she was going to run one, even though she hadn’t prepared. Despite the heat and exhaustion, she still finished. To this day she still signs up and competes in them.
“The first race was tough,” Hunter said. “I continued to do them because they were always challenging and forced me to push myself physically and mentally, which I enjoyed. Plus the t-shirts, medals and everything that happened after the races were always worth the pain and torment.”
She’s not all hard work all the time though. She enjoys being outdoors, hiking and kayaking, but Hunter says there is an importance to taking time to slow down and find balance throughout life. Between working and her hobbies, Hunter tries to find time to take a day or even a weekend to focus on herself.
“In a sense, what I want to do is give time back to myself, even if that means sleeping or having a quiet day inside away from others,” Hunter said. “I get a chance to re-center so that I have the energy needed to fulfill my responsibilities. It’s important to remind myself to do this, because if I’m not mentally and spiritually resilient, I’m no good to anyone. I can’t provide support to the mission or people.”
Hunter’s drive to help and lead people has been visible throughout her career. She’s received multiple awards for leadership in her squadrons, instructed at the Airman Leadership School for four years and is a credentialed DOD Sexual Assault Volunteer Victim’s Advocate with the Peterson Sexual Assault Prevention Response program. Hunter said she thinks her open-mindedness provides her the ability to see situations and viewpoints from different perspectives, which helps her to have a better understanding of people.
“The most rewarding part of my career has to be when I was an ALS instructor,” said Hunter. “I learned so much from them [students] as they showed me various perspectives of their experiences within the military. Watching them grow as leaders was the best part.”
Hunter’s understanding of others also comes from her own experiences in the military. She explained how her overall experience in the Air Force has been great. With the chance to learn many skills, share her knowledge and lead in many different ways, she’s been able to grow personally and professionally. However, it hasn’t been without its challenges. She believes those same challenges have prepared her to be a better leader.
“As a black woman in the military, I will always have to work harder than my counterparts to prove I’m just as capable,” Hunter said. “Although it’s been tough throughout the years overcoming racial adversity, I’ve managed to stay true to myself by overlooking the negativity and lack of understanding by pushing myself even harder. I know I’m capable of achieving all things regardless of my race.”
Now, as a new Guardian for Space Delta 2, Hunter’s sights are set on helping to build and grow the newest service branch and its people.
“Honestly, I’m nervously excited,” Hunter said. “I’m ready to learn, contribute and grow as a leader in this new branch. I believe the excitement comes from seeing how much our leaders have put into the strategic planning of the USSF and seeing the amount of faith they have in us to accomplish the new mission set. To see that I was one of the members they deemed a viable asset towards building the foundation within the new structure is beyond me and still shakes me to the core today.”
Hunter’s biggest advice to Airmen and Guardians alike is to remain open to new concepts, ideas and be flexible, as things constantly change in the military.
“I would also advise Airmen [and Guardians] to not be afraid to use their voices especially if their ideas will help improve processes within the work place,” said Hunter. “In the diverse and cultured environment we live in, our leaders welcome ideas that could potentially benefit all members of the service at a larger scale whether that’s with ops, career or personal things.”