Puerto Rican Airman overcomes all odds

Staff Sgt. Omar Rivera Rivera, 47th Force Support Squadron management analyst, was recently accepted into Commissioned Officer Training for the Medical Service Corps. Through research and advice from his mentors, Rivera Rivera went the extra mile, shadowing officers, gaining knowledge on everything he needed to reach his goal and never losing that desire to be better. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ariel D. Partlow)

Staff Sgt. Omar Rivera Rivera, 47th Force Support Squadron management analyst, was recently accepted into Commissioned Officer Training for the Medical Service Corps. Through research and advice from his mentors, Rivera Rivera went the extra mile, shadowing officers, gaining knowledge on everything he needed to reach his goal and never losing that desire to be better. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ariel D. Partlow)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

“The tears didn’t quite roll down the way they wanted to, but I felt completely overwhelmed by the joy.”

Staff Sgt. Omar Rivera Rivera’s glistened as he described the night he and his wife found out he had been accepted into Commissioned Officer Training for the Medical Service Corps. He remembered his humble beginnings in what seemed like another world.

“I grew up in Bayamon, Puerto Rico with my mother and sister,” said Rivera Rivera, now a Laughlin management analyst with the 47th Force Support Squadron. “We didn’t own property, never had a place to call our own, but we were never on the street. My mother worked hard for us and found our education to be very important.”

While he didn’t have a fortunate childhood, he never let that stop him. He took advantage of each program offered to him, eventually earning enough scholarships and grants to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Engineering from the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico, graduating as Magna Cum Laude.

“I had what I wanted, but I wasn’t very successful,” he explained.

He had the credentials he needed to start his career, but Rivera Rivera admitted he had trouble getting over his pride. Growing up in his conditions made him self-reliant, hesitant to count on anyone but himself.

“I struggled to get out there and progress in my career,” Rivera Rivera said. “I was starting to realize how being a ‘loner’ wasn’t helping me progress, and I knew I had to do something to change.”

So in 2010, at the age of 27, he enlisted into the U.S. Air Force as a cyber transport systems apprentice and got married.

Familiarizing himself to the Air Force culture, Rivera Rivera quickly learned how to overcome what he had struggled with all his life: networking, socializing and leading. But like everything else, it didn’t come easy.

 “The Air Force culture reshaped my life for the better,” said Rivera Rivera. “I had to learn how to get out of my comfort zone and learn what it meant to be an Airman and especially how to work as a team. What changed me was the people: my wingmen. I fully relied on them. With the help of my mentors, and my wingmen, I was shaped to be everything I knew an Airman in the U.S. Air Force to be.”

While he felt the joys of achievement, he wanted more. Rivera Rivera craved to advance in the Air Force and to become a leader.

“I wanted to be an officer,” he said. “So I started doing research.”

Through research and advice from his mentors, Rivera Rivera went the extra mile, shadowing officers, gaining knowledge on everything he needed to reach his goal and never losing that desire to be better.

“It took me six years to get everything together to submit my application,” he said, “but I did it, and I’ll always be grateful to those who helped me get here.”

Now a new chapter awaits future 2nd Lt. Omar Rivera Rivera. He’s not sure what else may lie ahead, but he will never forget where he came from and the wingmen he learned so much from.

“Growing up in Bayamon, I could only dream of being here today,” said Rivera Rivera. “I am living proof that in the Air Force, you can have your dreams come true.”