WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
Thirty minutes northwest of Austin, Texas, a girl from Lago Vista was raised by a young mother and a father who battled cancer in his late twenties and early thirties. Life wasn’t easy, but living through these challenges played an instrumental role in the development of a future United States Air Force Officer.
Capt. Olivia Unzueta is one of the many people who help enable the National Defense Strategy here at the Air Force Materiel Command. Her path to this point is nothing short of noteworthy.
Growing up, her family had no association to the military. Unzueta believed that joining the Air Force would not only change her future lifestyle, but it would also give her the chance to serve her country.
“I had a really difficult childhood. We could not really afford much. My mom cleaned houses and my dad did construction work,” she said.
Unzueta initially wanted to enlist in the Air Force when she was 17. Her mother would not sign the age waiver, but she found another route into the military through Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in college. She had already made significant strides by becoming the first in her family to go to college and get her bachelor’s degree in Spanish, with a minor in Russian. She continued to shape her family’s future by becoming the first to be in the military, and later she obtained her master’s degree in Homeland Security.
“I always knew I wanted to join the Air Force, I just did not really know why at the time. I just thought it looked cool. Why I joined is definitely different than why I stayed,” she said.
Unzueta began her career at Holloman Air Force Base, where she learned the ropes in the back shop of aircraft maintenance. From there, she transitioned to the position of Executive Officer for the Maintenance Group where she was able to glean valuable leadership lessons and further develop her own leadership style. She culminated her time at HAFB as an Aircraft Maintenance Unit Officer in Charge (AMU OIC). These positions taught her the value that each Airmen brings to the fight.
As the AMU OIC, it was most rewarding for her to have that sense of family within her Airmen, and to see them progress in their careers. Every award, graduation and promotion that each Airmen under her leadership received felt like an accomplishment. She took it upon herself to help them if that meant making their lives better.
Upon completing her tour at HAFB, Unzueta had an opportunity to take a position at AFMC in career broadening. An Airman in the career broadening program is temporarily placed in a position outside of their typical career field to gain exposure and experience in another aspect of the Air Force mission. For Unzueta, moving from aircraft maintenance to AFMC has opened her eyes to the mission’s bigger picture.
“Everything in the Air Force starts and ends in AFMC. The uniforms that we wear, the contracts for the dining facilities, and most importantly, the aircraft we fly… everything starts and ends here. I would argue that the MAJCOM (major command) that is most important would be AFMC,” she said.
Unzueta believes that the AFMC truly assists the Air Force by looking years ahead so that our initiatives and strategies are well ahead of the enemy. AFMC contributes to the Air Force as a whole in many ways. To better understand AFMC, one would need to see what actually goes on within.
“You come here and you get to see behind the curtain. You understand why things take a lot longer because we are collaborating with industry and allocating funding. You don’t see that on the flight line, so I love that I get to see this perspective because when I do go back to the flight line and the Airmen are frustrated, I can explain to them everything that goes into sustaining a weapon system.”
Unzueta said that she advises everyone who wants to serve their country to join the military. At ROTC, she remembers being taught the “value of a minute.” She considers this every day of her life so that she can utilize her time wisely and work hard to prove her service as a mother and a wife married to another active duty military member. Family is everything to Unzueta, and that is why she is adamant about what she does in the military. She protects her family at home, while also protecting her Air Force family.
“You are definitely a family in the Air Force, and from someone who did not really have much of a family growing up, I would not want to trade that for the world,” she said.
The people of AFMC come from different backgrounds, different cultures and have different educations and experiences. No matter these differences, they are all here to be part of something bigger than themselves. Out of about 83,000 people within AFMC, around 5,300 people are officers, around 12,300 are enlisted and 66,000 are civilians. It is not just people who are wearing the uniform; it is everyone working together.
This story is the first in the series to show who the people are within AFMC. It will feature not just those who wear the uniform, but a diverse set of military and civilians across AFMC. We are all Airmen supporting our Air Force mission.