Achievable: cadet overcomes obstacles to serve

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Evan Porter
  • Air University Public Affairs

Aileen Claveria, currently a cadet in Officer Training School, exemplifies resilience, dedication and service.

Her journey from a small village in the Philippines to commissioning as a public health officer in the U.S. Air Force is a testament to her commitment to helping others and her pursuit of personal and professional growth.

Born and raised in the Philippines, Claveria is the middle child and only daughter. She was raised by a single mother and faced many hardships from a young age.

“I came from a poor background, living in a traditional stilt house called a ‘nipa hut’,” she said. “When a typhoon struck, we had to seek shelter on the rooftop due to flooding. Life was difficult.”

Despite these challenges, she learned valuable lessons about resilience and the importance of supporting others. At the age of 13, with the help of her grandparents, she migrated to Hawaii with her family.

“There are abundant opportunities,” Claveria said. “Especially in education, and job opportunities are available everywhere, even for high school students.”

When she was young, Claveria aspired to join the Air Force, seeing herself as a leader and someone who enjoys engaging with people. However, life often interfered with her plans to apply.

“The most significant and challenging obstacle was my mother's diagnosis of acoustic neuroma, a brain tumor,” she said. “This illness left her disabled, making me the primary breadwinner for our family.”

Claveria's commitment to serving her community while simultaneously taking care of family was evident during her time in Oahu, Hawaii, where she worked as a health educator for HIV and Hepatitis C at a substance abuse treatment center for three years. She also served as a public health advisor for the Emergency COVID Response in Hawaii, collaborating with the Hawaii Department of Health and Honolulu Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the pandemic.

Claveria's days were incredibly demanding during this time as she balanced two full-time jobs, pursued a master’s degree in public health, and worked another part-time job as a food delivery driver.

“My days were filled with mental activity, but I didn't find it exhausting because I was passionate about helping during the pandemic,” Claveria said. “I was so motivated by my responsibilities that I finally tried to apply for the Air Force.”

After 17 years of aspiring to join the Air Force, Claveria finally achieved her dream by commissioning as a public health officer in July 2023. She is set to graduate from Officer Training School in July 2024. Following her graduation, Claveria will begin her first assignment with the 72nd Medical Group at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, where she aims to continue her development and foster a community of growth and support.

“My long-term goal going forward is to learn something new every day, apply this knowledge daily, support and take care of my people, assist them in achieving their goals, and continue to motivate others.”

Reflecting on her journey from that little village in the Philippines to where she is today, Claveria emphasizes the importance of remembering one’s roots and being grateful.

“Don’t forget where you came from and the people who supported you along the way,” she said. “Be grateful to God every day, regardless of your failures, and successes, small or big. No matter the challenges and obstacles you face, whether good or bad, never regret your experiences. Embrace them, keep moving forward, and you will find satisfaction in reflecting on how you overcame them.”