Olga’s dad, Ismael Nevarez, 65th Infantry
Regiment U.S. Army, 1950.
“She just has this glow about her,” says
Maureen DeFelice, Executive Director of Order of
Daedalians. “When she walks into a room, she has a
presence about her. In my organization, she’s seen
as an equal, she’s respected for everything she has
accomplished. She doesn’t try to be treated
differently because she’s female or the first Latina
pilot, she just wants to be treated like everyone else.”
Custodio is a charter member of the Women
Military Aviators Association, the Women in Aviation,
International Inc., the Allied Pilots Association and a
member and Trustee of the Order of Daedalians.
It is through Custodio’s service as member of
the Women in Aviation International Alamo City
Chapter that DeFelice has come to know, respect and
cherish her. Women in Aviation is an international
nonprofit organization that encourages young girls
and women to go into aerospace.
Custodio, like most Latinas, has had to prove
some skeptics wrong.
At 16 years of age, she decided to follow in her
father’s footsteps. She tried signing up for ROTC but
the Captain she spoke with encouraged her to join
the sorority instead. At the time, Custodio didn’t know
women weren’t allowed in ROTC.
It was a big bump in the road for Custodio. She
didn’t want to be in a sorority. She wanted to wear
the uniform and serve her country.
The recruiter gave Custodio an entrance exam.
Despite being told she had failed the exam, she would
later learn she had one of the highest scores ever. It
was her first time facing discrimination of this caliber.
She says she set aside her military aspirations.
She got married to Edwin Custodio, who served in the
Air Force and was stationed in Panama, and they had
their daughter Marcia. Custodio says Edwin is her
Three-year-old Olga Custodio wears her
dad’s army helmet in Arizona.
Olga’s daughter, Marcia Custodio, son, Edwin Custodio II and Olga Custodio.
best friend, supporter and advocate in all her
endeavors. They would eventually have a second
child, son Edwin II, and a grandson, Jedi.
During the time her husband was stationed
in Panama, Custodio worked for the Department of
Defense. The Air Force held an open house where
she learned that the military branch was recruiting
women to become military pilots.
Then she faced another hurdle. Unable to find an
Air Force recruiter in the Panama Canal Zone, she set
off to find an Army recruiter. Custodio was deliberate
and told the recruiter her intentions of becoming a
pilot. She found out that the clock was ticking. In order
to enter pilot training, a cadet had to be younger
than 26 years old. Custodio was months away from
reaching her 26th birthday.
Olga’s parents, Ismael Nevarez and Olga
Fortunately, she found an Air Force tech
sergeant who helped her fill out her paperwork
despite this being out of his purview. And from that
point on she soared, starting by graduating in the top
5 percent of her military flight school class.
“When you love doing something, you just do it.
I wasn’t trying to be the top (5 percent). I was just
doing what I knew I liked and had to do,” she says.
Minnette Velez, who formerly served as
communications manager at American Airlines, met
Custodio whilst working on stories for Women’s
International Day in the early 2000s. Marked on
March 8 annually, the event called for Velez finding
the ideal woman to represent American Airlines.
“Her story was so compelling, and we wanted to
be able to tell the world, ‘This is Olga. She’s from
LATINAStyle Vol. 24, No. 6, 2018 www.latinastyle.com 21