Alumni Spotlight: Capt. Amy Blanco
by Jess |
B.S. Mathematics '07 Hometown: Currently Vandenberg AFB in Lompoc, California, but originally from Las Vegas, Nevada Fun Fact: Amy learned how to curl in Fairbanks as a member of the Air Force ROTC "Olympic" team
For Amy Blanco, the thought of joining the Air Force was always in the back of her mind as a young girl, having grown up near the "Home of the Thunderbirds" in Las Vegas, Nevada. After graduating from high school, an Air Force recruiter tapped her to join the force, which kicked off her long and successful career in the military.
After enlisting in the Air Force, Amy-a third generation Las Vegan-was first stationed at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. She worked in mental health before transitioning to education and training at Tyndall AFB in Panama City, Florida. Though she enjoyed her posts, she knew she eventually wanted to become an officer, which would require a higher education. So Amy put a pause on her Air Force career to pursue a college degree.
When an opportunity came up for Amy to move to Alaska she jumped at the chance without hesitation. She enrolled at the University of Alaska Anchorage and got involved with UAA's Air Force ROTC program, "Det001."
Amy explains that students don't have to know which career field they want to pursue when they enter the AFROTC program. "There are so many things to do in the Air Force besides flying planes," Amy says. The Air Force has 11 major command units, ranging from air combat and space command to special operations and global strike command.
During her time at UAA, Amy was the AFROTC program's senior advisor as a C/Col, the program's highest rank. She planned the first ever Det001 Jamboree, a weekend recruiting event for Anchorage high school students, which resulted in several students joining the program as UAA freshmen the next year. She also volunteered to lead high school students during their JROTC summer camp.
For her efforts, Amy's peers honored her with the Warrior Spirit Award at the end of her senior year; she also received the Military Excellence Award sponsored by the American Legion.
Amy says that her classes were small, which allowed her to get to know her fellow classmates well. "I met people from all over the place-everyone had an interesting story to tell," she says. Some of her favorite memories of Alaska include camping and snowboarding with fellow cadets, as well as riding the train to Seward and touring Denali National Park.
After earning her bachelor's in mathematics in December 2006, Amy commissioned into the Air Force as a second lieutenant to continue her career in the service. Since then, Amy has moved up the ranks as a cyberspace operations officer and is now a captain.
Amy's first station after UAA was in Missouri at Whiteman AFB, "Home of the B-2 Spirit," where she worked as a network operations officer and executive officer for the 509th Bomb Wing. From Missouri, Amy was deployed to Joint Task Force Guantanamo in Cuba for six months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where she provided planning and acquisition for the task force's IT systems.
She was then stationed at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama-the intellectual and leadership center for the U.S. Air Force. There, Amy achieved Air Education and Training Command master instructor status teaching at the Squadron Officer College within the Air University. She transitioned to chief information officer for the Center for Doctrine Development and Education, which teaches the Air Force's fundamental principles and beliefs.
Amy also deployed to Kuwait as the chief information officer for the CENTCOM Deployment and Distribution Operations Center, which is responsible for the movement of each person and thing in and out of the Middle East. During her deployment, the center's focus was to bring home U.S. military members and equipment during the drawdown of Iraq.
Amy now works in plans and integration for the command, control, communication and computer systems supporting the Joint Force Space Component Command at Vandenberg AFB in Lompoc, California. Her unit ensures America's freedom in space, while preventing adversary use of space against us. Amy explains that they provide services like GPS to pilots in the air and soldiers on the ground, while monitoring anything leaving or coming back into the atmosphere: world-wide missile launches, nuclear detonation and space re-entry event detection (things like meteorites and space debris).
"It's an exciting time to be working in cyberspace operations," Amy says. "As a cyperspace operator, I can go anywhere. My career is allowing me to see beyond Earth and into space." During her first week in Lompoc, Amy witnessed the launch of the Delta IV Heavy rocket, the largest rocket in the country. Check out a news story about the launch.
Amy completed her M.Ed. degree from Troy University while in Montgomery and she hopes to one day teach math after she retires from the Air Force. She says the courses she took at UAA inspired her to want to be a teacher. "The faculty members in the math department played a big part in creating the positive experience I had while attending UAA."
Now that she's in California, Amy is enjoying being within driving distance to her home state of Nevada. "I love being able to road trip to visit my family," she says. And, she picked up a hobby in Alaska that she's carrying on in California: dirt biking. Now that she's back in mountainous place, Amy bought an enduro sport bike and is exploring the trails along the coast of central California.
The Air Force has taken Amy around the world (and beyond) and she's enjoyed certain aspects of each of her stations. "In Missouri it was the small-town charm, Alabama had the Southern hospitality, and in California I'm enjoying the fresh produce!" It's exciting to think about what could be next for this adventurous and optimistic UAA alumna.