The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Lending a hand

Imagine waking up early before the sun has risen. Frost still covers your car. You arrive one half-hour early to prepare for a 10-hour day. First, you defrost your frozen hands on a hot cup of coffee. Next, you get paperwork ready for newcomers before you fetch the wing commander to start training.

Once a month and two weeks out of the year on annual tour, Beatriz Zapien leaves her civilian lifestyle to go to work for the Air Force Reserves at Beale Air Force Base in Marysville.

Zapien, who is in the nursing program at City College, is roughly 5-feet, 8-inches tall and has slender arms and legs. She is 21 years old, has shoulder-length chocolate-brown hair, light-brown eyes and a sweet smile that matches her giggly laugh.

Zapien weighs about 115 pounds, but that doesn’t stop her from performing as an airman with her 940th Force Support Squadron unit. She looks delicate on the outside, but can kick some butt if she has to. After all, she is competing in a man’s world where women are a minority.

During her weekend commitment, Zapien and other flight members run, go to the gym for a couple of hours, and do calisthenics, which consist of various types of pushups, situps, and squats.

“I run whenever I get angry,” says Zapien, who says running helps her blow off steam.

The Air Force is not her first exposure to a strict, formal program with its high expectations of fitness. In high school, Zapien joined the Sacramento Police Department student program for four years.

Prince Rasheed was in the high school program with Zapien. Throughout four years, he learned all about the personality traits Zapien displayed in the program.

“It doesn’t surprise me that Zapien chose the Air Force,” says Rasheed, who also understands why his friend is now in a career in nursing. “Zapien has a genuine want to aid, assist and improve the quality of life of those around her.”

Zapien agrees her greatest passion is helping people and says she doesn’t want a desk job. She is going to school for nursing so that she can deploy and help soldiers who are injured in combat.

“I’d rather make people feel better and be passionate about my job even if I’m in a tent,” Zapien says. “I like to be hands-on.”

Zapien normally has a reserved demeanor, but after a while, she opens up with a friendly manner. Though she has a soft voice that is hard to hear, her laugh carries, and pleasantly, she is not a woman of few words. She says cats, little kids, and her teasing boyfriend, Ivan Dunzweiler, make her laugh.
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Dunzweiler is also in the Air Force and knows what qualities it takes to be in the military.

“I believe it’s her work-hard, never-quit work ethic that has made her successful and looked upon for guidance from her junior airmen,” Dunzweiler says.

Along with taking a full load at school, she sacrifices her free time to make a difference in the emergency room at UC Davis Medical Center.

“Out of everything that I’m juggling in my life right now, I am more proud of volunteering at the ER,” Zapien says. “Getting to work with the technicians is my favorite.”

You might expect someone in the military to see life in black and white, but not Zapien. She is open-minded and does not appreciate closed-off people.

“I hate one-minded people who bash other people’s opinions,” Zapien says.

On the other hand, she says she finds people’s genuine personalities beautiful and has a philosophy: Act today as if anybody in your life could be gone.

“Don’t take anything for granted,” Zapien says. “Live life every day with an open mind and care for everyone.”

Walking by or meeting her you wouldn’t expect this tiny and innocent-looking woman to be a tough one. Even more, thinking of her as a member of the military might be the last thought to cross your mind.

But Zapien admits to one fear — talking in front of people.

“My voice starts to shake. I’ll get cold and smile a lot,” she says.

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