Senior Airman Tracy Coleman began her Air Force career in a Delaware mall in 1986 at age 19. She separated in 1991 and never thought she'd again be wearing the uniform 18 years later as a reservist in the 419th Fighter Wing.
Coleman now serves as a health services manager in the 419th Medical Squadron, maintaining the medical records of everyone in the wing. She is in charge of making sure member records are up to date and all Airmen are physically ready to deploy if needed. Coleman is also a civilian budget analyst and mother of 20-year-old twin daughters.
When Coleman first enlisted on active duty 26 years ago, she initially worked in supply and later retrained into medical.
"I got out in '92 because I honestly believed it was time for me to do something else, and I was very torn because I didn't know what I was going to do," she said. "But I knew I wanted to raise my children."
Coleman's family moved to Utah in July 2006 when her active-duty husband was assigned here.
"When we came to Utah, I decided I should go in the Reserve because I wanted to finish what I had started," Coleman said. "I would see service members on the news and I thought, 'Those are the kind of people I want to work with -- people who are maintaining my freedom.'"
Coleman said she asked herself, "If they can do it for me, why can't I do it for them?" She then began the process of re-enlisting at age 45. Normally, the cutoff for joining the Air Force is age 35. Because she exceeded the age limit, Coleman had to undergo several intensive medical tests to make sure she was in the physical condition to join again.
"I would get so discouraged when they would look at the test results and say, 'Well, because of these results, we have to do some more examinations,'ââ" Coleman said.
"There was a lot of stumbling along the way, and many times when I could have just given up."
But after all the long hours, the assessments paid off.
"I was baffled and elated when I got in," she said. "I'm now very honored to be in the Reserve."
Coleman said she is enthusiastic about her future.
"I like everything about the Reserve," she said. "I like it because I get to work with people with different backgrounds, and we come together as a team doing something totally different and protecting our country."