ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --
In 1990, when news of the Gulf War reached Guam, Frank Diaz just retired a year earlier from a 21-year career in the United States Air Force. When the retired master sergeant heard about the war, he was with his wife and daughter.
“When we heard about the war,” said Judy Sanchez, daughter of Diaz. "I remember my dad saying to my mom, ‘Hun, get my stuff out of the closest. I may be recalled.’ He didn’t get recalled, but he was so ready to answer the call, it made me think; I want to answer the call.”
Thus began the incredible career of Judy Sanchez.
Sanchez was born on Guam and grew up in the village of Barrigada. Despite being a military child, her father was stationed on Guam his whole career, so she is a lifelong resident of the island. When she graduated high school and began looking for a job, her interests guided her to the military.
"I was excited to work with people in uniform,” said Sanchez. “I liked how the military was organized, and the way they conducted themselves. Very professional…always giving back to the community.
”In 1996, Sanchez got a job as a civilian secretary working for the Guam Army National Guard. She split her time between work and college until she earned her degree, which allowed her to get a federal job. For 10 years she worked on the historic buildup of the U.S.’s youngest guard unit.
“I was in facility management, the equivalent of a civil engineering group,” said Sanchez. “So, I witnessed the construction from the tin and metal location in Fort Juan Muna to the Readiness Center in Barrigada. We were a part of that growth.
”In 2006, she transferred to the U.S. Navy to assist with the monumental task of merging the naval and air base into a joint command. The two years she spent with the Navy were a difficult transition from the U.S. Army’s command structure, but her hard work was recognized, and she was offered the opportunity to work for the Andersen Development Office on Andersen Air Force Base.
“I grew up here at Andersen,” said Sanchez. “I went to the dental clinic here…always got my I.D. here. Andersen has always been in my heart.”
She and her team would continue to manage the hand-off of hundreds of positions and millions of dollars from the Air Force to the Navy during the joint-base initiative. Even after the transfer was finished, her team would de-conflict any issues between the two installations.
“If you go to another joint base, they actually merged the services, but, since we are about 26 miles away from the naval installation, we couldn’t physically merge,” said Sanchez. “So, we became joint in policy and resources only. Also, in a contingency, the 36th Wing will receive thousands of people and thousands of aircraft, and they would need to fall into a structure that they recognized.”
For 11 years, the Andersen Development Office or Plans, Programs, and Readiness Office (XP) as it is currently known, had to balance the needs of the two services and find solutions to joint problems in a divided environment.
In 2019, the base realignment was announced, where 335 jobs and $126 million were going from the Navy back to the Air Force. Now Sanchez’s team had to reverse some of the work they had done.
“This is not a traditional XP shop,” said Sanchez. “Most XPs work on plans. Because of our other responsibilities, our focus has been on the implementation of base realignment and the military buildup with our staff of four.”
The military buildup refers to the movement of 5,000 Marines, 2,000 dependents, 25 rotary aircraft, and the possible hiring of over 900 employees to support the creation of a new military installation.
“We are in history,” said Sanchez. “Everywhere else, you hear about bases closing, not new bases being built.”
The buildup has four cornerstones: aviation capabilities, a firing range, quality of life, and Marine headquarters. The creation of Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz, the new Marines Corps installation, will only support the headquarters. Andersen AFB will support the rest, meaning the base requires some updating, including housing.
“We created a 10-phase plan where, by the end of it, 900 to 1000 houses will be built,” said Sanchez. “My dad retired out of Andersen, active duty Air Force, in 1989, and they were 20-year-old facilities back then.”
Sanchez is a GS-13 program analyst for the 36th XP. She contributes her success to one particular family member.
“It was my son who got me where I am today,” said Sanchez. “I was a teen mom. I was pregnant in high school, and I remember the look on my parents’ faces when I told them. I didn’t want to rely on the system or my parents. That was the turning point: not wanting my parents to be disappointed.”
Sanchez has spent the last 25 years building installations for four different services and has played vital roles in the island’s military projects in the last couple of decade. In doing this, she has not only helped create platforms in which to launch the mission, but she has made a place where service members work and grow, bring their families and make memories, and sometimes a place they remember as a home. In this way, she successfully built a home for her son and thousands of others.
“Guam is my home,” said Sanchez. “And, if there is anything I can contribute that’ll protect my island in a contingency or emergency, I want to be a part of that.”
In 2017, Terry Edwards, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center director, personally coined Sanchez for her work with the implementation of Joint Region Marianas. A picture of the event was taken, her co-worker posted the picture online, and Sanchez’s father commented on it.
“Really proud of you, daughter.”