The move from Kingsley Field to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. is a big one, but 28-year-old Oregon Air Guard Technical Sergeant Diana Peña is prepared make it.

Peña has been a member of the Oregon Air National Guard since she graduated from Mazama high school in 2008. Soon, she will start a yearlong job at the Pentagon, the United States’ headquarters for the Department of Defense.

After working in many Air Guard departments including command support, human resources and recruiting over 10 years, Peña was approached by security forces Sgt. Levi Clarey in June with a proposal to apply.

“He was like hey, I really need to talk to you,” she said, recalling the moment. “I stepped out and it seemed serious.”

Clarey told her that Sgt. Angie Townsend, who worked in security forces at Kingsley and is from Merrill, called him because there was a job opening at the Pentagon. Townsend was seeking recommendations for someone to fill it, and Clarey told Peña he gave Townshend her name.

“Oh my heart dropped to my stomach,” she said. “I was just so excited.”

Peña agreed to apply for the position, which she said will include planning events and planning for visits from world leaders.

She had been looking for a new career opportunity after earning her bachelor’s degree in respiratory care from Oregon Institute of Technology in 2017. She was working as a respiratory therapist at Sky Lakes, but they had no full-time positions available.

Peña, who described herself as “100 percent from Klamath Falls”, was intrigued by the idea of East Coast work at such a prestigious institution.

“I always thought that it would be cool, and there are people from here that have gone to the East Coast and told stories about training and how beautiful it is over there,” Peña said. “I never ever thought that I would get selected for working at the Pentagon for General Lengyl and being part of his staff.”

General Joseph Lauren Lengyl as an Air Force Officer who was appointed as National Guard Bureau Chief in 2016.

Peña does not yet know all of the specific details of the job, but she will use her 10 years of Air Guard experience — from boot camp in Texas, to trade school in Mississippi, to deployment in South Korea and work at Kingsley — to rise to the challenge.

“From Kingsley, I’ve always learned to have that family-oriented feeling, and I think that is 100 percent the biggest thing I will take with me,” she said. “To always be kind, to always follow the rank structure but know that those people are there for you — they’re your Air Force family. It’s just part of the wingman concept: you can always count on your wingman.”

Peña said she was excited to work around powerful issues and leaders at the national scale. At Kingsley, she said, they train the best F-15 pilots in the world; at the Pentagon, crucial far-reaching security decisions are made every day.

“I think it’s going to help me grow as a person,” she said. “The more things that you’re exposed to, the more valuable you become — in and out of uniform.”

On Monday, Peña will pack up her car and rented U-Haul to drive to her new home across the country with the help of her boyfriend.

Peña’s whole family lives in Klamath Falls, including her younger sister who works at Kingsley, so she plans to return when the job is over. Her roots will always be here, she said.

“I’m going to be able to come back and be an example and explain that there’s so much more out there, to just definitely seek out opportunities and open up other doors,” she said.