Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Tanuvasa serves her country in the fields and in the air

Publish Date
Composite image of close-up of American flag

By Adrian Melendez
NRCS-WA Public Affairs

Sarah Tanuvasa poses in uniform with her mother Maxine
NRCS-WA District Conservationist, Sarah Tanuvasa, poses in her Air Force uniform with her Mother, Maxine. Sarah took time from her job as a NRCS conservationist to join the Air Force Reserves in early 2022.

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - As Women's History Month kicks off, we celebrate the achievements of women who have made an impact in various fields throughout history. Among those making an impact these days is Sarah Tanuvasa, a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Washington District Conservationist who recently joined the Air Force Reserves. Sarah’s dedication to protecting our environment, assisting her community, and serving her country demonstrates the strength and resilience of women in traditionally male-dominated fields.

Sarah’s Air Force journey officially began when she reported to Basic Military Training (BMT) at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. It was initially a slow start. Sarah said that when she arrived at the auditorium, she received a black backpack with toiletries and then waited approximately five hours before being ushered on to a bus to be taken to her dorm. As all the recruits entered the bus, they were warned by the driver a Military Training Instructor (MTI) would be joining them on their ride.

“My heart rate jumped as I hadn’t been yelled at for a long time,” she said.

“We got off the bus there were at least 10 MTIs, black hats with the brim so wide sloping down their face you can barely see their eyes,” Sarah continued “They were in uniform as we all were still in our civilian clothes. They were swarming, yelling so close in our faces you could smell their breath and feel the spit on your face as you try to hold a still face and stand at attention.”

She said the screaming and yelling continued as they collected and labeled personal items and equipment prior to being able to wash up and get in bed at around 2 a.m., while listening to rounds of new recruits exiting busses and going through the same treatment she had just went through, and then she was being woken up at 5 a.m. by a screaming MTI to get out of bed and get ready for the day ahead.

Sarah said the hardest part of her basic training was being on someone else’s schedule and remember her “reporting statements”, starting her statements by addressing who she is talking to by rank and last name and then herself as trainee (Sargent Smith, Trainee Tanuvasa reports as ordered). She also said that being punished as a group for one team member’s mistake also took some time to adjust to.
While it took time to adjust to a few aspects of her basic training, Sarah said she really enjoyed meeting new people from across the country and learning new skills. She was also surprised by the ease of the physical fitness portion of training.

“The physical fitness part is not hard,” she added. “I thought that would be the most challenging.” 

After Sarah completed basic training she reported to Fort Sam Houston, also in San Antonio, for four-and-a-half months to start training as a flight medic. Then it was off to Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, for an additional six weeks of clinical training.
She said she still has a five to six more months of training to go before she can deploy and do the job effectively, which includes four months of flying while she’ll on active duty, six weeks of flight school and then successfully completing Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training.

West Area Conservationist, Dave Rose, said he supported Sarah’s goal of joining the Air Force Reserve, and that it’s a great representation of the type of person she is.

“I was very proud to learn that Sarah was making the commitment to serve our country with the Air Force,” Dave said. “She’s an outstanding member of the NRCS family. She’s a leader. The Air Force and the nation at large are gaining a very skilled person.”

“I am very privileged to be able serve in this capacity and very thankful for the support from NRCS,” Sarah added. “I have definitely learned more things about myself throughout this experience.”