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Airman's Journey To Service, Citizenship
by U.S. Air Force Author
May 30, 2023

On any given weekday in 2017, you would find then-hospitality intern Dianne Rivera greeting guests, serving drinks and soaking in the mountain scenery at the Broadmoor Hotel located in downtown Colorado Springs.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Dianne Rivera stands in front of a model aircraft at Peterson Space Force Base on May 17, 2023. (U.S. Air Force photo by Emily Peacock)
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Dianne Rivera stands in front of a model aircraft at Peterson Space Force Base on May 17, 2023. (U.S. Air Force photo by Emily Peacock)

Working as a cultural exchange intern from the Philippines, Rivera never imagined that her one-year work visa would extend well-beyond her initial 365 days.

“I was matched with the Broadmoor through an exchange agency,” explained Rivera. “My degree was in hospitality, so it was a perfect match.”

Defined as a visitor exchange “for educational and cultural exchange programs designated by the Department of the State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs),” Rivera’s J1 Visa brought her to Colorado for real-world, hospitality experience.

“I intended to apply my experience back home after my internship ended,” said Rivera. “But that all changed when I met my husband, Yan. We met through mutual friends, exchanged numbers and the rest is history.”

Shortly after Rivera and Yan married in 2018, Yan, along with his unit from Fort Carson, deployed to Afghanistan.  

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Dianne Rivera, left, poses for a selfie with husband, Yan, following her Basic Military Training graduation at Joint-Base San Antonio in June 2022. (Courtesy photo provided by Airman 1st Class Dianne Rivera)
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Dianne Rivera, left, poses for a selfie with U.S. Army husband, Yan,  following her Basic Military Training graduation at Joint-Base San Antonio in June 2022. (Courtesy photo provided by Airman 1st Class Dianne Rivera)

“After Yan left, I started the paperwork to obtain my green card in the hopes of staying with the Broadmoor,” said Rivera. “But I knew I wanted to do more.”

With multiple military installations spread out across Colorado Springs, bumping into men and women in uniform isn’t uncommon.

“I really admired people in uniform and what the uniform represented,” said Rivera.

Curious to see what her options were and if she was even eligible for service, Rivera visited an Air Force recruiting station in early 2019.

“I was told that in order to serve in the Air Force, I would have to wait for my ten-year green card,” explained Rivera. Still newly married, Rivera was only a few months into her initial two-year green card.  

Over the next few months, Rivera continued to work at the Broadmoor and was also able to travel back to the Philippines for an over-due family reunion.

“I have a big family and I really missed them,” said Rivera. “They were already so proud of me for everything I had accomplished. I just wish I could have told my dad about my dream to join the Air Force.”

Unfortunately, Rivera’s father passed away in 2020. Coping with the loss of her father as well as the COVID shutdown, Rivera’s enlistment journey took a backseat.

It wasn’t until 2022 that Rivera returned to the Air Force recruiting station – ten-year green card in hand.

Less than six months after returning to the recruiting station, Rivera received a call from her recruiter informing her that she would receive her top career choice, financial management, and that her bachelor’s degree qualified her to enter the Air Force as an Airman 1st Class (E-3), putting her ahead of most of her peers.

Rivera’s dream was about to become a reality.

Typically, the Air Force’s Basic Military Training lasts around 7 ½ weeks and provides the necessary foundations of serving as an Airman.

In order to be physically ready for BMT, Rivera trained with Yan six times per week at the gym. She also prepared by watching videos online.

“The graduation videos always made me cry,” admitted Rivera. “I would think to myself, ‘that’s going to be me!’”

Rivera arrived at Joint-Base San Antonio in Lackland, Texas on May 17, 2022. Over those 7 ½ weeks, Rivera pushed herself physically and mentally, never losing sight of why she enlisted in the first place.

“I was doing this for me and my family,” said Rivera. “I was doing this for my dad.”

On graduation day, Yan and his family made the trip from Colorado to Texas to share in Rivera’s special day.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Dianne Rivera, center, poses with U.S. Army husband Yan, second to the left, and his family ahead of Rivera's Basic Military Training graduation ceremony at Joint-Base San Antonio in June 2022. (Courtesy photo provided by Airman 1st Class Dianne Rivera)
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Dianne Rivera, center, poses with U.S. Army husband Yan, second to the left, and his family ahead of Rivera's Basic Military Training graduation ceremony at Joint-Base San Antonio in June 2022. (Courtesy photo provided by Airman 1st Class Dianne Rivera)

For Rivera, having Yan’s family there to celebrate her graduation was especially comforting, filling the noticeable hole where her family would have been.

“My family wasn’t able to travel from the Philippines, but I knew they were there with me,” Rivera said as she pointed to her name tape. “Rivera is my maiden name – my dad’s name. It was like he was there with me. I think he’d be so proud.”

On May 15, 2023, 363 days after arriving at BMT, Rivera received her citizenship.

“For me, achieving my citizenship was a bonus to military service,” said Rivera. “I feel grateful to wear this uniform and to say I’m a U.S. citizen.”

 When asked what her family would think of her serving at Space Base Delta 1, Rivera laughed.

“Initially, my family asked if I would be working in space or flying planes,” said Rivera. “I wish.”

Instead of working above the earth’s atmosphere or flying C-17s, Rivera works as a budget analyst for SBD1.

“I might not directly work in space, but I help finance the missions that do,” explained Rivera. “No money, no mission.”

Looking ahead to her future in the Air Force, Rivera remains humble.

“I want to work hard and I want to succeed,” said Rivera. “A current goal of mine is to qualify for Below the Zone, which allows you to pin Senior Airman six months early. But more importantly, I just want to continue making my family proud.”

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