BHS grad helps build drone facility in Africa
Editors note: May is Military Appreciation Month. For the next three weeks, the Burleson Star will bring you stories of people from Burleson serving their country at home and abroad.
Sarah Young probably never expected to wake up each morning in the dusty desert in Niger, but this 2013 graduate of Burleson High School isn’t there on a holiday. Young is part of an elite team of Airmen who are building a $110 million drone base for the Air Force.
This new drone base will help the military conduct air strikes against terrorist extremists in West and North Africa. It’s not unusual for Young, who is Staff Segeant and structural journeyman, to be working in 110 degree heat with 30 mile an hour winds whipping around her.
Niger is located in West Africa and is the largest country in the region. Over 80 percent of the country lies in the Sahara desert and is home to more than 20 million people.
“It’s really not that bad, aside from it being bright and sweaty,” Young said. “I’m just happy that I’ll be home soon.”
Young was inspired to join the Air Force after attending the Alliance Air Show in Fort Worth as a child.
“When I saw the jets flying overhead, I knew that was something I wanted to be a part of,” Young said.
Though Young doesn’t personally work or fly any jets, she still feels that she is a part of the “big picture” of the Air Force. Being in the Air Force has also given Young the adventure and travel that she was seeking when she was younger.
“I knew I wanted to travel,” Young said. “Seeing the way other people live their lives in other parts of the world has been really eye opening for me. I’ve learned to respect the things I have that are so easily obtainable for me.”
Young has also gained recognition and special “coins” for commemorative moments in her service. She received a coin from her commanding officer for being a good leader and another coin of excellence for building an ammo storage device for the military police. She also received a coin from the Chief of the Navy for helping with a large construction job. Additionally, she was recognized by the Chief of the Expeditionary Group, comprised of her base in Africa and an Italian base.
“The Chief said I stood out to him the moment he saw me in training and wanted to give me his coin for busting butt in training in San Antonio and out here,” Young said.
One of the hardest aspects of being in the military, Young said, is making friends and relationships with people and then being uprooted and moved somewhere else.
“I’ve made some good friends and met some of the coolest people out here that I will have to say goodbye to, and that’s always hard.”
However, Young has really enjoyed meeting the native Africans that live in the same area of the base. Despite hostility in other parts of the world, Young said she has not witnessed any of that in Niger.
“They’ve been really friendly people,” she said.
Young’s mother, Melody, said she didn’t expect her daughter to want to enter the Air Force after she graduated high school. Melody’s husband had also served in the Air Force for a short time, and it seemed that Sarah’s fate in the armed forces was sealed after she realized that she was in the same dorm- and bed- as her father was in while he was at basic training.
“That was wild,” Melody said. “After that happened we knew it was meant to be.”
Melody said the change in Sarah’s demeanor has been remarkable after she joined the Air Force.
“She was always a good kid, but now she goes above and beyond all the can do,” Melody said. “And she absolutely loves it. We are all very proud of her.”