MORRIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ariz.,-- Each March, the U.S. Air Force celebrates Women’s History Month, honoring the important contributions made by women to the nation, both past and present.
This year, Women’s History Month is extra special for Capt. Erika Jaramillo, Clinical Nurse for the 162nd Wing Medical Group, as she celebrates twenty-one years of service. Jaramillo became the first woman in her family to serve when she joined the Air National Guard in March of 2001.
“Since the age of eight, I knew I would wear the uniform. I didn’t know what I would do, but I knew I wanted to contribute to society by serving in the military.”
Jaramillo was studying mathematics at Northern Arizona University when she took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
“My recruiter told me I qualified for all of the available career fields. I wanted to do something more physical, I chose to be a firefighter. Something I hadn’t really thought of doing. Ultimately, this choice changed my life trajectory.”
In December 2004, shortly after graduating from NAU, Jaramillo deployed to Balad, Iraq as a firefighter. A few months after returning from deployment she had the opportunity to provide humanitarian assistance in Mississippi after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.
“My experiences in a war zone and in emergency humanitarian response greatly impacted my career path and leadership style.”
During her time as firefighter, Jaramillo completed Emergency Medical Technician training, sparking her interest in the medical field. In 2009, Jaramillo began her nursing degree through the University of Arizona. In 2011 she commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the 162nd Wing Medical Group.
“This opportunity led me down a path of various, unexpected twists and turns. In 2015, one of the most unexpected and memorable opportunities was presented. I was humbled to serve the Security Forces Squadron as the commander. Being a part of this outstanding team, taught me more lessons than I could have learned from any book or course.”
In December of 2020, Jaramillo graduated with her Psychiatric Mental Health Practitioner degree. She plans to assist first responders, military personnel, and veterans in need of mental health assistance.
“My military career has offered me opportunities that I would never have planned in my wildest dreams. As a woman, my military experience has been empowering. Half of my career, I was the only woman at home station and on deployments. I had to meet the same standards and complete the same tasks. I pushed my body to the limits. I challenged self-doubt. I was able to do this because I was surrounded by individuals who encouraged me, believed in my potential, and opened doors.”
Although Jaramillo has a solid support system, she knows firsthand how challenging it can be to balance the mission, motherhood, school and civilian life.
“The struggles are pretty universal in the military. It was especially difficult when I missed out on time with my son. I have also had some health complications with cancer that have impacted my career. But, I have been able to maintain strength and resilience through faith and family support.”
Jaramillo is a single mom to her 9-year-old son, Pedro. She says he is the ultimate driver behind her success.
“My highest priority is to be the best mother to my son, providing examples of hard work ethic, resiliency and love.”
Jaramillo shares some words of advice with fellow women serving in the military.
“Regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, your potential is far greater than what you could imagine. You need to put in the work and have the courage to walk through the doors that have been opened for you.”