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DMC Observing Hispanic Heritage Month with Querer es Poder: Lieutenant Colonel Olga Custodio’s Quest to Democratize the Sky

Article by: Rosa Linda Reynoso

When Olga Custodio attempted to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Puerto Rico in 1969, she was turned away. Nevertheless, she persisted. She walked into a recruiting station for the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1979.

In observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, Del Mar College (DMC) presents Querer es Poder: Lieutenant Colonel Olga Custodio’s Quest to Democratize the Sky. Dr. Erinn McComb, DMC assistant professor of history, will discuss how Custodio became the first Latin American woman to graduate from the USAF Officer Training School.

The lecture begins at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 25, in Room 514 of the William F. White, Jr. Library, locatedon the DMC East Campus at Naples off Kosar at Staples. Sponsored by the College’s Social Sciences Department and the Mexican American Studies program, this event is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Dr. McComb at 698-1368 or emccomb1@delmar.edu.

When the USAF recruiter asked Custodio to name three careers for which she’d like to apply, she responded, “You can write down anything you want on that form, but I’m going to be a pilot, a pilot or a pilot.”

After completing the USAF Flight Screening Pilot Officer Training School, Custodio was commissioned a second lieutenant. She was also the first female pilot instructor of the supersonic T-38, one of the world’s most difficult jets to fly. Later in 1988 she also became the first Latina commercial airline captain for American Airlines.

Dr. McComb’s presentation outlines Custodio’s story as one that not only broke down barriers for women, but also one that gave visibility to Latinas in control of technology, specifically flight technology.

Her first in flight not only debunked the historic narrative that women and minorities were passive actors with technology, but her quest from military to aviation pilot further reinforced the American ideal of the democratization of the sky.

In other words, Custodio proved that the sky is the limit.

About Del Mar College

Del Mar College empowers students to achieve their dreams. We offer quality programs, individual attention, outstanding instruction through faculty with real-world experience and affordable costs to credit and noncredit students in Corpus Christi and the South Texas Coastal Bend area. Nationally recognized while locally focused, we’re ranked in the top two percent of community colleges in the country granting associate degrees to Hispanic students (Community College Week). Del Mar College focuses on offering our students programs that match current or emerging career opportunities. Whether students are interested in the fine arts, sciences, business, occupational or technical areas, students get the education they need for the future they want at Del Mar College.