HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --
Four days after arriving at Hill Air Force Base, Senior Airman Lelauni Sanders was in a commissary checkout line when a senior master sergeant unexpectedly reached out, swiped a card to pay for her groceries and told her not to worry about it.
He asked her instead to come to a meeting.
That meeting was where she decided to become a member of the Air Force Sergeants Association, where she recently was awarded the AFSA International Airman of the Year during the AFSA Professional Education and Development Seminar held July 27-30, 2021, in Orlando, Florida.
Sanders is a member of Hill’s AFSA Chapter 1163, “The Beehive Chapter,” which was also recognized during the event with the 2020 International Exemplary Achievement Award.
The AFSA is a federally-chartered, veteran’s service organization representing the professional and personal interests of its members, total forces and their families. The members are organized in 125 chapters throughout the world.
“Being a part of AFSA includes recognizing the needs of those around you,” said Sanders. “This includes civilian, active, reserve, guard, retired, and families. All of it. It includes coming up with an idea to help those around you and rolling with it.”
Sanders is a contracting specialist with Air Force Sustainment Center’s Contracting Directorate at Hill. She grew up as a child of military parents and considers El Paso, Texas as the place she calls home. She said she joined the Air Force a couple years after graduating high school for the opportunities serving provides.
“Both of my parents joined and were given values they still cherish today,” she said. “I figured the Air Force was a good choice to help me figure out what I wanted for myself.”
Outside of her primary duties as a contracting specialist, Sanders serves as her AFSA chapter’s activities coordinator. She has also been involved with Hill’s First Four as their Airman Recreation Center manager, is completing her undergraduate degree in business, and recently completed her Community College of the Air Force degree.
Before winning the AFSA International Airman of the Year award, she was awarded AFSA Division 6 Airman of the Year and Airman of the Quarter awards. Sanders was recently selected for staff sergeant as well.
“Some say ‘no’ because opportunity looks like work. Sanders has a habit of saying ‘yes,’” said Master Sgt. James Zwiebel, AFSA Division 6 president.
Others around her feel the same way.
“Sanders has been nothing less than the best example for others to emulate,” said Senior Master Sgt. Henry McRoberts, AFSA Chapter 1163 president. “The strong move quietly and without question she is a strong Airman and leader of her peers.”
McRoberts said she competed against 180 respective chapters and rose to the top with her award presented by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Joanne Bass.
“Going in front of a board was nerve-racking. In that moment, I was happy to have the opportunity to go in front of them and represent the division,” Sanders said. “I was proud to be able to represent the division and our chapter and show everybody what we have done is amazing.”
Sanders said being a part of AFSA has been great for her and helped her come out of her shell with the mentorship she has received from its leaders.
“I love the support and guidance I receive from the group,” said Sanders. “You’re surrounded by a ton of leadership who are there because they want to see everyone around you be great.”