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38th RS Airman shoots for the stars

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --

Great Minds in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math recently announced an Airman from the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron has won the 2017 Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award.

Capt. Amparo Romero-Ortiz, 38th RS electronic warfare officer, was one of eleven candidates, both civilian and military, to be selected from the entire Armed Forces.

Romero said she has overcome a lot to get to this point and was very shocked by the announcement.

“My family is of humble background,” Romero, a Los Angeles native, said. “My mom was a housekeeper.”

But that hasn’t slowed her down. From a young age, Romero had dreams of becoming an astronaut and nothing was going to stop her.

She was accepted to the University of Southern California and after securing scholarships, loans and grants to include funding from GMiS, she graduated with an astronautical engineering degree.

Her next step was to join the Air Force.

“I always wanted to be in the military,” Romero said. “My recruiter said the Air Force wasn’t hiring engineers at that time, so maybe I should apply rated.”

She was accepted and selected to be a combat systems officer.

“My dream is still to one day become an astronaut,” Romero said. “I applied a while ago, but I was still a lieutenant so I didn’t have the required time in service. I am waiting from another slot to open up.”

Until then, she continues to do her job to the best of her ability. Romero is constantly making technological advancements and initiating testing on the RC-135 Rivet Joint.

"Military members competing for an industry award face a pretty steep headwind,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Crivellaro, 38th RS commander. “Our operations tempo doesn't make it easy to pursue advanced engineering studies--especially as she competed against a number of military and civilian engineers that don't carry the same deployment responsibilities. All credit truly belongs with Capt. Romero-Ortiz, and the Hellcats of the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron couldn't be more proud of her."

She was notified of her award after returning from her most recent deployment with the RJ. But work isn’t the only way she stays in tune with STEM.

“I like to get involved,” Romero said. “I talk to the kids in Civil Air Patrol about space and satellites. I meet with the Boy scouts, every year, during their field day to teach them about how a jet flies. I am also involved with mentoring young women in high school who want to pursue a degree in science engineering.”

She has already seen two of her mentees complete their degrees in science.

“It helps me to teach someone else because I see myself in other people,” Romero said. “I help them tap into their full potential. When I was that young I was not very confident, and I didn’t know what the future held. When you have someone to mentor you and tell you everything is going to be fine, it is more reassuring.”

She said she never thought she would be where she is today.

“I was surprised and really proud that I won an award outside the Air Force,” Romero said.

She will be presented the award in October at the annual Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference in Pasadena, California, where her mother will be in the audience.

In addition to dreams of becoming an astronaut, Romero also hopes to earn a PhD and go on to teach at the Air Force Institute of Technology or the U.S. Air Force Academy.

"Amparo is an excellent Hellcat and community leader,” said Crivellaro. “Where she has differentiated herself from her peers, however, is through her continued studies and graduate level research in engineering. The balance of her volunteerism, her family, her responsibilities as a warfighter and her passion for engineering have been inspirational to the squadron."