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Campus News / News

Lt. Col. Olga Custodio shares her experience becoming the first Latina U.S. Military Pilot on October 7

10/02/2019 11:43 am

Rockford University welcomes Lieutenant Colonel Olga Custodio, the first Latina to complete USAF military pilot training on Monday, October 7, 7 p.m. as part of the University’s Fall Forum Series.

Olga Custodio, the daughter of a U.S. Army noncommissioned officer from Puerto Rico, graduated high school at the age of 16 and went on to attend the University of Puerto Rico. There she tried to join the colleges Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, but was turned down because the program did not accept women. Following graduation, her attempt to join the United States Air Force Officer Training school was also turned down. Pressing forward, at the age of 26 while working in Panama, she met with a recruiter and applied for the U.S. Air Force Officers Candidate School, and was officially accepted into the Flight Screening Pilot Officer Training school in January 1980. She eventually went on to attend Undergraduate Pilot Training at the Laughlin Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The Air Force then assigned her as a pilot instructor at Laughlin AFB.

While initially turned away from flight school because she was a woman, Lt. Col. Olga Custodio went on to break barriers. She is the first Latina to complete USAF military pilot training, first to become a USAF pilot, and later, as the first Latina commercial pilot for American Airlines. Lt. Col. Custodio’s visit is in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and is also a part of Rockford University’s Rock Solid Success Seminar, an annual event designed to provide encouragement and motivation to all students as they pursue graduation from RU.

With the exception of Performing Arts events, the Forum Series is free of charge and all events are open to the public. This event will take place at Regents Hall, Burpee Student Center located on the Rockford University campus, 5050 East State Street, Rockford. Regents Hall is accessible. Tickets are required and can be obtained by contacting the Box Office at 815-226-4100 or For a complete list of the 2019 Fall Forum Series events, visit Arts & Lectures/ Forum Series.