Maj. Damien Pickart wrote:
Venezuelan's dreams soaring to new heights in Air Force
via Air Force Link Top Stories
(Maj. Damien Pickart ) on May 23, 2007
Airman 1st Class Edward Camacho immigrated to America on a one-way ticket with six months of money and not a word of English in his vocabulary -- but he had lofty dreams of becoming an Air Force officer, test pilot and ultimately an astronaut. Two years later, the Airman has been delivered surprise news that puts him one step closer to his starry objective.
Airman Camacho, a supply troop deployed from Aviano Air Base, Italy, to Balad AB's 332nd Expeditionary Logistical Readiness Squadron, learned he was selected for the Air Force Academy's Preparatory School in a surprise announcement from Brig. Gen. Robin Rand, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander.
Informed by his squadron the wing commander wanted a briefing on the new Airman's Battledress Uniform, the young Airman showed up to the morning intelligence briefing unaware of the news he was about to receive.
When the general asked if he and the command chief could get an Air Battle Uniform set, Airman Camacho, still new to American customs and military 'ways,' candidly told the general, "No sir, those are only for AEF (Air Expeditionary Force) 7/8 Airmen,' to the laughs of the astonished brass.
"Well, what kind of supply troop would say no to his wing commander? You're fired, Airman Camacho." As the crowd erupted in more laughs, the general paused and asked him to share the story of his journey to America and the Air Force.
Airman Camacho has seen much change and surprise in his life since he returned to the United States from Venezuela at the urging of his father in 2004.
Born in the Houston in 1985 while his father earned a masters degree at Baylor Medical College, Airman Camacho noted he was really an "American living in Venezuela as a tourist for 19 years."
"I love Venezuela, but it was nearly impossible for me to achieve the goals I've set for myself," Airman Camacho said. "My father sacrificed everything. He saved for his retirement --30 years of work - so I could have a single shot at returning to the place of my birth to make my dreams a reality."
The returning American showed up at Boston's Logan International Airport in January 2005 unsure where to begin in a country where even the language was foreign to him.
"I quickly forced myself to learn English by talking to people and watching television," Airman Camacho said. "Four months into my American journey, I was running out of time and money, and my English was still poor. That's when the Air Force entered my life and set me on a new path."
Surfing the Internet one evening for pictures of fighter jets, he came upon an Air Force 'contact form' that blocked him when he tried to access aircraft images and links. Several days later, a recruiter contacted him.
Two months later, with only one week of funds remaining before he became officially homeless and faced a return trip to Venezuela, a determined Camacho told the recruiter he'd take whatever job was available, but that he needed a home and a future, and he wanted it to be in the Air Force. As the young Airman recounted his amazing journey from Venezuela to America to Italy to Iraq, the general popped the question, 'Just what do you want to be when you grow up, Airman Camacho?'
Airman Camacho, slightly surprised by the question, responded, "I want to earn a degree in electrical engineering, get a commission, then become a test pilot and hopefully an astronaut. I thought I might have upset him when he asked if I wanted to fly F-16s and said 'no, they're old, I'd like to fly F-35s.' I didn't realize why he looked so surprised and everyone was laughing until I remembered he flies the F-16."
After a few minutes of teasing and ribbing the refreshingly candid and honest Airman, General Rand stood up, shook his hand and said, "Well Airman Camacho, your hard work and determination have paid off because you've been selected to attend the Air Force Academy Preparatory School. You're on your way to becoming an officer."
Airman Camacho shook his head at the news and buried his astonished face in a pair of folded ABUs. When he took them away, he was grinning from ear to ear as the room erupted in a thunderous applause and standing ovation.
The Air Force Academy preparatory school prepares selected candidates for admission to the Academy and helps ensure they can succeed in the school's demanding environment. Like the Academy, admission to the prep school is highly competitive with roughly 240 cadet candidates entering the prep school each summer. Airman Camacho will join their ranks this July as one of only 20 percent who are prior enlisted.
"Edward's story is amazing," said 1st Lt. Cartize Durham, ELRS's supply flight officer in charge. "He's been an incredible asset to the Tuskegee team this rotation. When we found out he'd been selected, we really wanted to surprise him with the news and I think General Rand certainly did that. The look on his face was priceless when he got the news."
The prep school's stated purpose of readying students to attend the Academy, graduate, and become Air Force officers is right in line with Airman Camacho's dreams.
"I'm so honored," Airman Camacho said. "The Air Force is my new family since coming to America, and it has been so good to me. I can't believe just a few years ago I had a very different and not-so-promising future in Venezuela, and now my dreams are coming true."
"I was shocked and thrilled at the same time," said Airman Camacho. "My father told me 'find a way' when he handed me that one-way ticket and his entire 30-year pension. God guided me into the Air Force, and my new family is helping make my dreams come true."
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Venezuelan's dreams soaring to new heights in Air Force
Pictured July 2006, Airman 1st Class Edward Camacho (right) is all smiles following a surprise visit to his family home in Guacara, Venezuela. Two years earlier, his father Juan Vicente, (pictured in middle) gave Edward a one-way ticket and his entire 30-year pension in hopes the young man's dream of becoming an Air Force officer, pilot and ultimately an astronaut, might one day be fulfilled. The supply troop deployed from Aviano Air Base, Italy, to Balad AB's 332nd Expeditionary Logistical Readiness Squadron in Iraq, recently learned he was selected for the Air Force Academy's Preparatory School in Colorado. Pictured on left is Edward's brother, Bryant. (U.S. Air Force photo) Download Full Image
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Airman 1st Class Edward Camacho reacts with disbelief after Brig. Gen. Robin Rand, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, notified him of his selection to the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School in Colorado. Airman Camacho, a supply technician deployed from Aviano AB, Italy, to the 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Squadron at Balad, Iraq, emigrated in 2004 from Venezuela to America in hopes of becoming an officer, pilot and ultimately an astronaut. The surprise announcement at the wing's daily update brief moves him one step closer to realizing those goals. (U.S. Air Force photo) Download Full Image
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