Olga Custodio speaks for STEM


Erick Amaya, Staff Writer

Los Medanos College hosted Olga Custodio for a panel organized by STEM and as part of Hispanic Heritage Month on Sept. 24. The panel took place in Science Room SC-136 which was followed by a reception in Library Room L-109. 

Custodio is a former fighter pilot for the United States Air Force and retired captain for American Airlines. She held the honor of being the first Latina fighter pilot for the Air Force. 

Custodio began her speech by stating that the purpose of her message was to share the barriers she had to overcome to give hope to students who may not have any hope in themselves. “Hopefully they came to listen to something inspiring that I had to say, and shared how I met the challenges and barriers that I experienced, and hopefully take away something they can use in their lives,” she said. 

Custodio was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico after her mother decided to go there. She grew up in a military family, her father is an Army veteran of 23 years, serving during World War II and the Korean War. Custodio said as a child, she felt safe and secure with her family because of her father’s military background. 

Due to her father being in the Army, the Custodio family lived in many countries world-wide. Most notably, they lived in Taiwan, Iran, and Paraguay- where she enrolled in Spanish classes to learn to read and write, aside from being able to speak the language. 

Custodio graduated highschool at the age of 16, she soon enrolled into the University of Puerto Rico where she wanted to become a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadet. She shared her story about the officer she talked to, who laughed at her, telling her that the sorority she was looking for was across the hall. Still, she was determined to become an ROTC cadet and while continuing her education become an accounting major. She soon realized that accounting and math, which she wanted to study, did not have any similarities. 

She finished her education at the University of Puerto Rico and soon landed a job with Puerto Rico International Airlines. It was at LMC where she met her now husband, Edwin Custodio, and married only three months after meeting. They both enrolled in the military, joining the AirForce. She quickly faced a lot of discrimination for being a woman, but that did not stop her. Her husband was successful and was stationed in Panama, where she got a job with the U.S. Department of Defense. 

She soon received a letter that gave her the opportunity to go to undergraduate school in pilot training where she learned how to fly a T-38 Talon. She successfully completed the course and became the first Latina to be a part of the U.S. Air Force. She later returned to become the instructor pilot of the T-38. At the time, it was the fastest aircraft women could fly. 

She retired from the Air Force and became a commercial pilot for American Airlines, becoming the first Latina woman to pilot with the airline. She flew different models, including Boeing 727,757,767, and Fokker 100. 

 “I was really inspired by the speech, especially because she was a Latina who achieved so many things, and crossed so many barriers, that others haven’t. For her to be a Latina woman is completely inspiring,” Said Adriana Cendejas. Olga Custodio closed her speech with a great mantra, “querer es poder,” translating to “Where there is a will, there is power.”