Gabe Romero ’12

Major: Geology

Profession: U.S. Army Aeromedical Evacuation (Medevac) Officer and Pilot

Hometown: Covina, CA

What are you doing now?

I’m the Operations Officer (second-in-command) of DMZ DUSTOFF, the only U.S. Air Ambulance Medical Company in South Korea. I’m responsible for the day-to-day operations, maintenance and logistics of 109 aircrew members and 15 HH-60M Blackhawk helicopters. I manage our 24/7/365 rapid response MEDEVAC coverage at two separate sites, including the North-South Korea Demilitarized Zone at Panmunjom. Annually, we respond to about 50 real-world urgent medical evacuation requests across the Korean Peninsula and over 100 Air Mission Requests with civilian, military and government customers for Special Operations missions, MEDEVAC training, emergency medical provider/equipment circulation and VIP transport. Once in a while when my schedule permits, I even get to fly!

How did you get there?

I decided on the military path rather late in my college career. After having been firmly committed to the geosciences through my junior year, I had a sudden change of heart while on a summer planetary geology internship. (Cataloguing thousands of samples over three months can do that to you.) I decided that I wanted my new career direction to focus on public service within the scope of “doing good and saving lives.” A summer of research later, I decided that I wanted to be a medical evacuation pilot—it seemed like the most interesting job that satisfied my requirements. So, I joined the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program at Claremont McKenna College my senior year and began the accelerated 2.5-year program. I continued with ROTC through Pomona graduation and completed the program after finishing Claremont Graduate University’s 4+1 Drucker MBA program. I was extremely fortunate to have been selected by the Army to serve as a MEDEVAC Pilot and was sent to Fort Rucker, Alabama, for flight school. Once I graduated from the UH-60 Blackhawk course, I was sent to Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska, and deployed with that unit to Northern Afghanistan. Once my platoon leader time was complete, I was given orders to Camp Humphreys in Korea to take the job I’m in now.

How did Pomona prepare you?

Pomona was an amazing place to learn how to fail and ask for help. I readily admit that I was never the greatest student at Pomona. I usually felt out of my depth being in classes with such smart people and professors (and my grades probably reflected that). But knowing that I had the ability to bounce back from failure played an important role in my Army career. That being said, a big reason for making it to graduation was asking for help when needed, whether that came in the form of extra time for finishing assignments, one-on-one tutoring or utilizing office hours for extra help. In today’s professional work environment, asking for additional resources or extra help is a skill in and of itself that can pay dividends when utilized correctly. I credit Pomona with allowing me the opportunity and space to safely hone these skills.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’m actually leaving the Active Duty Army and transferring into the Army Reserves later this year. I’m excited to continue my service in a much more part-time capacity and delving into the emergency management side with the National Disaster Medical System. As far as full-time work after my transition, no plans just yet. This is the first time in my adult career that I’ll be able to focus on just enjoying spending time with my family, which is incredibly exciting. Beyond that, I have a diverse background in commercial aviation and emergency management and could easily see myself in one of those fields.

Any advice for current or prospective students?

Take your classes seriously, but don’t worry too much about the end result. I was a fairly atrocious student, and I still turned out okay. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to take non-standard opportunities. There is absolutely no way anyone could have convinced me at 18 that the Army would be my post-graduation career path, but I wouldn’t change anything at all.