Air Force captain Tamara Archuleta graduated summa cum laude from the University of New Mexico AFROTC in 1999, and became the detachment's first female cadet to earn her pilot wings.

Sadly, Archuleta died while on a mission during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan when her Blackhawk helicopter hit the side of a mountain. 

Part of Archuleta's early career included flight training in the same unit that landed a HH-60 rescue helicopter on Johnson Field recently during Welcome Back Days. 

Having the rescue helicopter, which is part of the 58th Special Operations Wing, land on Johnson Field took some doing on the part of AFROTC Commander Lt. Col. Raul V. Garcia.

"I coordinated with 21 different UNM offices including the Army ROTC, over four months to obtain approval for the landing," said Garcia. "I also had to get permission from the Pentagon."

Garcia, who teaches the senior-level Air Force ROTC course, used the helicopter as a makeshift classroom. The students had the chance to explore the helicopter while talking with the pilots about real life experiences in the Air Force.

"It's amazing to talk to the crew and find out how exciting the Air Force rescue mission really is," AFROTC Cadet Kyle Duran said.

"When people think about the Air Force they think about the fast fighter jet," said AFROTC Cadet Kenze Showers. "Rescue helicopters are something totally different and cool."

After the visit was over, Garcia said that seeing the students crawl all over the helicopter like ants made the hard work worth it.