Overcoming adversity; Staff Sgt. Soto’s path to Air Force Pharmacy Technician Airman of the Year

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zeeshan Naeem
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Achieving distinction as the 2023 Air Force Pharmacy Technician Airman of the Year, Staff Sgt. Jose Soto, 325th Medical Support Squadron pharmacy technician, has had highs and lows in his time in the Air Force. 

Previously stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, he voluntarily requested a permanent change of station to Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Soto stated that a good support system was absent for him and moving closer to his hometown of Orlando would be helpful.

With a change in environment within the 325th MDSS, Soto was able to navigate the move as well as an unexpected transition into becoming a single father. Despite the turbulent times, Soto integrated into his new workspace and immediately began to build a sense of camaraderie and responsibility at work.

“He became our natural leader,” said Lt. Col. Shane Martin, 325th MDSS diagnostics and therapeutics flight commander. “When he’s out his lack of presence is noticeable and when he’s here the flight runs seamlessly. He’s very charismatic and has an earnest desire to help people; a quality that is rare and impactful.”

After being a part of the 325th MDSS for three years, Soto volunteered for a training deployment at Columbus AFB, Mississippi, over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in 2022.

“They were going through staffing shortages and within three to four weeks Soto showcased our operations processes, helping them return to a normal duty schedule,” Martin said. “Performances like that are almost unheard of from a senior airman; his work ethic and care for others is more than enough for him to be a staff sergeant, let alone win awards at an Air Force-wide level.”

Soto explained the most important aspect of his career was resiliency, overcoming the adversities he faced in his personal and work life and being consistent throughout his career.

“The biggest thing for me was being personally responsible for my child’s upbringing,” Soto explained. “I want to make sure I’m able to give my son a role model— demonstrate how resilient his father can be.”

His leadership recognized his impact within the 325th Medical Group. Martin explained that he submitted Soto for Pharmacy Technician of the Year and a Stripes for Exceptional Performers promotion to advocate for his value to the team. The STEP promotion program authorizes commanders to immediately promote enlisted Airmen who demonstrate excellent performances. Soto was selected for a STEP promotion, and he pinned on staff sergeant in November 2023.

“No matter the challenges I went through, having a support system and the ability to adjust my mindset through difficult times was key,” Soto stated. “My advice to Airmen going through turbulent times is to reach out, use your resources and take advantage of the opportunities the military gives you. The Air Force can help you on a personal level because you’re more than just an Airman.”