Taylor working to make a difference at Kentucky Air Guard

By Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Master Sgt. Zakiya Taylor stands with her parents after receiving the award for 2014 Kentucky Air National Guard Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year during a ceremony held at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds March 14, 2015. Taylor, who a services manager for the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Force Support Squadron, credits her parents’ encouragement for her successful military career. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As the nation honors the accomplishments of women in the military during National Women’s History month, the 123rd Airlift Wing reflects on one of its own, Master Sgt. Zakiya Taylor, a mentor to young people, an acknowledged leader among her peers and a decorated Airman answering the call to duty around the world.

An 18-year veteran of the Kentucky Air National Guard, Taylor joined the wing just after finishing high school, with the encouragement of her parents to help pay for college. She never intended to make it a career.

“I got the love of travel from my musician father, who took me with him when he performed around the world,” Taylor explained. “I knew that the Guard would allow me to travel as well and help me further my education.”

After completing her bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology at Western Kentucky University, Taylor decided to continue her career in the Guard, where she got her opportunity to see the world. Taylor’s career has taken her to deployments in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Europe, Afghanistan and Africa.

“I have had the opportunity to learn all these different cultures and fellowship with all these different people,” Taylor said. “In that process I have learned that we are not very much different. We all want the same things: good health, wealth and security for our families.”

Fellowship through mentoring is a passion for Taylor, who worked throughout her high school summers as a camp counselor for youth at the Metro Parks summer camp in Louisville. While in college, she became a dance instructor for a local youth arts program.

She continued her desire to mentor in her Guard career when she accompanied a group of young Army ROTC cadets to Burkina Faso, Africa.

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Air Force Master Sgt. Zakiya Taylor of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing greets a Burkinabe boy while serving as a cadre leader for U.S. Army Cadets participating in the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency Program in Burkina Faso in June 2014. The program strengthens cultural awareness and foreign language skills among the Army’s future leaders. (Courtesy photo)

“This was a great leadership opportunity for me,” she said. “I was solely responsible for these cadets, getting them to their mission location and taking care of them from start to finish. It has made me a better leader. I know the cadets’ experiences will make them better leaders, too.”

Leading by example is just one of the many characteristics that has brought Taylor to this point in her career. In March, she was honored as the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 2014 Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year.

“As a leader and as a woman, it is exciting to be honored alongside all of the men,” Taylor said. “It shows that we can do this. We have come so far and had so many challenges. I think when an award like this happens, it shows that women are breaking down barriers, moving forward and making progress.”

Accepting challenges is something Taylor is no stranger to. As well as performing her duties as unit training manager for the 123rd Services Flight here, she has been appointed by Chief Master Sgt. Ray Dawson, 123rd Airlift Wing command chief master sergeant, to assist with a new education initiative designed to bring college classes on base.

“She is one of the most professional, dynamic senior NCOs I have ever worked with,” Dawson said about Taylor, who is the Force Development Education Services Technician for his education program. “Her commitment to excellence is second to none. When she is in charge of a detail, the outcome is set from the start.”

And right from the start in her career, Taylor has had a vision of what her own outcome should be.

“It is very important to me to display my leadership and exemplify what it means to me to be here and set an example for other Airmen,” she explained. “I may not always say the right thing, but if I’m doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons, someone is going to pick up on that. Hopefully, I am making a difference for someone.”

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