My mother is from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. As a young woman, she was a vibrant, athletic prodigy. At twenty years old my mother was drafted to the National Selection Women’s Basketball Team of Honduras. She was the youngest of her teammates, most in their thirties and older. Among several major league women’s basketball teams, she later played in Guatemala where she met my father. In pursuit of the American dream, my mother left her athletic career behind and immigrated to the United States where I was born in Boston, MA. I lived in Honduras when I was four and attended preschool there. When I was ten years old I was able to watch my single mother proudly take her oath as a U.S. citizen.
I am a graduate from the U.S. Air Force’s Military Intelligence School at Goodfellow Air Force Base, TX. I am also a graduate of courses at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center (Joint Base Lewis-McChord, NJ), the Joint Special Operations University (Hurlburt Field, FL) and the Community College of the Air Force. I have attended Quincy College (Quincy, MA) and I am currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science with a minor in Civic Leadership at Portland State University.
What has been your professional career trajectory, so far?
I have been an Operational Intelligence Analyst for the United States Air Force for six years (four years on Active Duty, and two as a Reservist). In addition to my full-time collegiate career I also work for the Department of Veteran Affairs. Additionally I am the Event Coordinator and Liaison Officer for the community and Portland State student group, Las Mujeres de la Raza, a Latin American culture, and Latina/women’s empowerment group.
What has been your most important professional or social accomplishment, thus far?
So far my most important professional accomplishment was my graduation and successful completion of Air Force Military Intelligence School. I was not allowed to walk at my high school graduation and as such that day meant a lot to me. It was the proudest day of my life, so far.
Although I was a very bright child, put in gifted children/advanced placement programs, around middle school academics lost it’s luster for me. Not feeling challenged, and having no mentors I became significantly disinterested in school. Although I was in the top 10% of SAT scores/IQ tests of my high school class of 700 students, I found myself in the bottom 10% of GPA’s. When I looked into college my senior year, my guidance counselor told me there was no point in me even trying to apply. Having no help in this process, I was extremely discouraged but my mother would not allow me to waste my talents and as such pushed to me to join the Air Force. Although I was unenthusiastic to join the Air Force at the time (even breaking my braces to delay my admission to boot camp) it was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I thank my mother ever day.
What has been your most impactful experience while in the Air Force?
My most impactful experience was luckily very early in my military career; immediately upon joining my first unit, fresh out of Intelligence School my Senior Intelligence Officer, a Major at the time, put me in front of a room full of Commanders. This took me by surprise, since most of my peers at the time had been at the unit longer and not been put up to such a task. It was my first professional, public speaking experience and I was one of three women in a room of about thirty older, powerful, educated men. I, a mere nineteen year old was briefing them about Middle Eastern political developments. Since then, I’ve delivered countless similar briefings. I like to think that Major put faith in me after noticing and respecting my character and work ethic. For years now that experience has motivated me to continue to show my absolute best efforts in every piece of work I finish.
How has your military background influenced your character?
As a military woman I have been challenged frequently throughout my Air Force career.
Often, people pay more attention to how I look than what I say, regardless of the fact that I spent hours if not days researching topics to do my job well. I recall early in my career when a coworker told me I was supposed to know how to make coffee just because I was a woman. Sometimes, I am left out or left behind because I am the only woman in the group. This is not always the case, however over the years I have been personally impacted by the Air Force values (very similar to my mother’s), “Service before Self”, “Integrity First” and “Excellence In All We Do”. The Air Force has taught me inner fortitude, and although sometimes difficult, I don’t stand idly by when my integrity calls things into question. I have also been influenced to always strive for excellence. I have found by doing so, it’s harder for people to ignore my intellect and attributes than merely focus only on my outward appearance.
How has your military background influenced your career/education?
I have been blessed to work side-by-side with some amazing officers who took a special interest in me. Two Air Force Captains in particular were the first to ever inspire me to reach for higher education. I distinctly remember one of these Captains urging me to take college courses and my utter embarrassment as I told her I didn’t even understand how credits or degrees worked. Without hesitation, she sat me down and drew it out for me on a white board. The other Captain (now my mentor) not only served as my role model, but also frequently was never too proud to ask me for help or for my input. In doing so, she allowed me to display my leadership potential not only to others, but more importantly to myself. This enabled me to truly envision myself in a higher position, pursue my degree and perhaps a commission.
You have traveled quite extensively. What was your favorite country or city to live (or be stationed) in? Why?
Although I traveled to many beautiful places throughout Europe, and Southeast Asia, my favorite place has been Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. While there I volunteered at a school for deaf children where I met many inspiring young girls. Due to culture, and their condition, these girls’ only career path was to be seamstresses or housewives. The girls were extremely fixated on me, asking me question after question. They were in awe at my achievements and drive as a modern woman, and the striking similarities in our love for soccer and Mariah Carey. Apart from this touching experience, the people of Kyrgyzstan are among the most humble and hospitable people I’ve ever met.
How and why did you become involved in the National Hispana Leadership Institute?
I had actually never heard of National Hispana Leadership Institute before. I happen to come by the application to the Latinas Learning to Lead program randomly. At the time, I was going through a lot of self-discovery and difficult transitions, yet my partner strongly encouraged me to apply. I took a chance after reading the questions, which seemed to fit me very well. I never expected to be chosen as one of the lucky twenty women to participate and join the amazing organization.
In what ways has or will your involvement in the NHLI influence your personal and professional life?
NHLI deeply impacted me on multiple levels and ultimately changed my life. Growing up in a predominantly white area neighboring Boston, I was consistently challenged in my identity as a Latina. Consequently, my disinterest in school caused me to consistently work below potential. Yet throughout my life my natural ability to care, inspire, and mentor others has been evident. NHLI was a reflection and wake up call to the potential I possess as a leader. I was immediately impressed and touched by my NHLI hermanas, and blessed to finally find other women with similar challenges, passions, and strengths as myself. I am invigorated to push through to success and pull up those who have walked similar paths before me.
What has been your biggest personal challenge, and what has been your biggest professional challenge?
My biggest personal challenge happened last year. I had just moved clear across the country to Oregon when my mother back in Massachusetts received news of an amazing ad hoc job offer. The elderly couple she was a caretaker for required an at home nurse during their no-notice trip to France. She was given two days to accept. I assumed Guardianship of my ten-year-old sister in order to allow her to accept the once in a lifetime opportunity. I became a pseudo parent overnight and both my sister and I started school for the first time in a new place. It was a positive, growing experience for us all.
At one point in my military career I encountered one of the biggest challenges of my life. The beginning of my career exposed me to some amazing leaders, but like with any sector, I also fell in the hands of some bad leadership as well. Due to bad management I was unjustly mistreated, which escalated significantly throughout a deployment. Although it was a difficult path, I chose to follow my integrity and stand up for myself and other colleagues who were affected similarly. Although many times I was alone, and did not have a voice, I grew immensely from this experience. While only a select few stood behind me in this effort, the most impactful thing I discovered was my resilient inner strength. As a result of this experience I realized my ability to have an impact on others. This experience inspired me to continue to develop myself into a great leader and mentor others to become positive leaders themselves.
What is your next big dream?
My next big dream is to successfully graduate with my Masters in Intelligence Studies and Conflict Resolution. My dream includes a successful career as a Federal Intelligence Analyst or (until very recently) as a political strategist or candidate.
What is your advice to Latina students and professionals?
My advice to Latina students and professionals is to dare to discover who you are and how far you can go. As Latinas we are multidimensional, resilient beings with deeply diverse cultures and backgrounds. Learning who you are takes time and patience and it doesn’t come easy. However, I’ve learned that without learning from my mistakes, experiences, and self I can’t improve or fully put myself to good use. When we don’t take the time to reflect or understand ourselves we become hindered to have forward momentum. The unknown or ignored accumulates and creates uncertainty. In order to fully explore our potential we must have confidence to push ourselves and conquer the barriers that stand in our way. As Latinas we are much too valuable and have too much to offer to allow our own selves to set us back. Dare to discover what you can achieve!
If you would like to learn more about Pamela Campos, or the organization for which she is the Event Coordinator and Liaison Officer, Las Mujeres de la Raza, please click on the links below: