Local February 8, 2013 | 9:35 am

Local Air Force’s first woman pilot gets special training in Texas

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-Lackland.- Taking a break from catching drug dealers, Capt. Maria Tejada-Quintana came to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland to attend the Inter-American Squadron Officer School at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, graduating Dec. 12 with 278 fellow IAAFA students.

Tejada Quintana, a petite brunette, claims the title of the first female combat pilot for her country, the Dominican Republic. Her short stature belies the size of her calling: flying interdiction missions aimed at stopping narcotrafficking over the Caribbean Sea, while monitoring the border with Haiti in an Embraer A-29 Super Tucano aircraft.

The A-29 is a light attack aircraft equipped with mission and display processors, armor protection, a missile approach warning system and various other navigation, tracking and communication systems. It is a recent acquisition for the Dominican Republic.

Her instructor said that she was at IAAFA for a reason and was one of the top students in her class.

"She is a trailblazer, opening roads for others while overcoming challenges," said U. S. Air Force Capt. Omayra Genao, Professional Military Education instructor and ISOS program director. "It’s been an honor to have her here as a student, to be a part of history and witness it.

The ISOS curriculum prepares officers for further responsibilities as they move up in rank, and is professional military training required for promotion. Students are taught theoretical aspects of leadership, critical thinking, team building, mentoring techniques and are provided opportunities to practice those skills throughout the training.

Tejada Quintana decided to pursue a career as a pilot and become combat-rated during her third year of college at the Dominican Republic Air Force Academy "Batalla de las Carreras."

Her brother, Dominican Republic Air Force pilot Lt. Col. Juan Dario Tejada Quintana, was also studying at the Academy. She said it was he who inspired her to be the first female to join the all-male combat pilot corps. She followed in her brother’s footsteps and graduated in 2005, securing a slot in the Dominican Republic’s air force pilot training school.

Currently the Dominican Republic’s Air Force has six women pilots flying: three in the Transportation Squadron, two in the Search and Rescue Squadron and one in the Combat Squadron. There are a total of 178 pilots in the country’s air force.

Tejada Quintana explained that she had to sacrifice free time to study and prove herself throughout her training.

"There are no obstacles that cannot be overcome with strength, will, and a lot of studying. The reason I have made it this far is because I made personal sacrifices and concentrated on my goals," said Tejada Quintana.

"From here, she will go back to her squadron and continue flying the Super Tucano," Genao said. "But what she learned in this course will help her pursue leadership goals well beyond the airplane. It is about being a team leader, understanding the mission, and demonstrating an unwavering commitment to her fellow airmen, her senior leaders, and her country. In addition, in her unique position as Dominican Republic’s first female fighter pilot, Tejada Quintana is a role model."

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