First ever Latina US Military pilot, Olga Custodio, is an inspiration to women everywhere

It would be difficult to find anyone more tenacious, determined, and just downright inspirational as Olga Custodio or Lieutenant Colonel Custodio as she's known in the Air Force. Custidio is a Puerto Rican mom…who also just happens to be the first ever Latina US military pilot.


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Since she was young, Custodio has been breaking the mold. She spent the first 15 years of her life traveling between continents with her family, spending her first two school years in Taiwan and then bouncing to Jersey, Iran, and Paraguay.  At only 16, she graduated from high school and went to college in Puerto Rico, where she was turned away from the university's ROTC program because women were not allowed. After graduating, she worked various jobs where she met her now husband and soon became a mother.

When her daughter was three, she applied to be an air force officer for the third time , this time refusing to take no for an answer. "The sergeant asked me to name three career choices," she told Fox News.  "I told him I would be a pilot, a pilot and a pilot." Finally, Custodio got her wish, graudting from Officer Training School and Undergraduate Pilot Training. For 24 years, she served in the force, ending her run with the official title of Lieutenant and earning an Aviation Safety award along the way.

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And she still wasn't done—after retiring from the military, she became the first Latina to become a commercial airline captain and has flown a variety of airplanes around the world. Now, after over 11,000 hours flying in her lifetime, she only takes flight on occasion for fun. Plus she has continued to give back to the Latino community, mentoring students and serving as the Vice President of the Hispanic Association of Aviation and Aerospace Professionals.

Seriously, have you ever heard of anyone with more accomplishments? I am blown away by all of her amazing achievements, but even moreso by her obvious strength and utter determination. Custodio is an inspiration to Latinas, to the Hispanic community, and to all women in general. And her mantra, "Querer es poder," is one everyone--both male and female--should aspire to meet.

What do you think of Custodio's story? Tell us in the comments below!

Images via expertinfantry/flickr, Olga Custodio/facebook

Topics: latina role models  mamáslatinas awards


on May 30, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Muchas felicidades a la distinguida señora y colega militar Olga Custodio quien es un orgullo Boricua!!
Por eso que todos los que son Puertorriqueños que griten fuerte WEPA!!

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on Jun 4, 2012 at 11:51 AM

WOW this is a real story of NEVER giving up on your dreams...honestly how many of us really would have kept trying, I know I wouldn't have....!! WAY TO GO OLGA, Mui buene ejemplo!!!

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on Sep 24, 2012 at 9:51 AM
that is not inspirational, joining the u.s military is not a good thing, blessings to her, but she has to be concious that she has joined a criminal organization
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on Aug 1, 2013 at 1:30 AM

Thank you Michelle for running this story I wrote about my fellow Air Force Latina aviator. Even though I flew for over 9 years, I had never heard of her, because like so many accomplished Latinas, she was invisible, nobody had ever bothered to write about her. It took another military Latina aviator to write the story...and you to amplify it. THANK YOU!

P.S. mamirica - I protected your 1st amendment right to speak your mind, but let me speak mine: shame on you for saying she's not inspirational and joined a criminal organization. If you don't like the protections our military affords you in this nation, please feel free to leave it. :-)

Graciela Tiscareno-Sato, author of Good Night Captain Mama /  Buenas Noches Capitán Mamá, first bilingual children’s picture book teaching young children ages three to eight why women and mommies wear military uniforms and serve in our nation’s armed forces. ISBN: 978-0-9834760-3-0

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