December 12

Recruiting Skyrockets in Hands of Lt. Pineda


At five foot two, the petite Lt. Erin Pineda smashes Air Force stereotypes. From jumping out of airplanes to working on a space mission, her experiences are nothing short of remarkable.

As a child, Pineda didn’t see herself as a lieutenant. She loved chemistry and animals, and hoped to be a veterinarian. However, her attraction to the Air Force grew as she and her father, an amateur aviation enthusiast, attended the Wisconsin Experimental Aviation Association air show each summer. She decided to attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado, and graduated in 2013. She now teaches Aerospace Studies in the BYU ROTC program.

“One year, when I was about fifteen, I stumbled across a tent at the air show with Air Force Academy cadets holding a falcon, a live falcon, and I was like, ‘What is this?!’” Pineda says. “I spoke with the cadets at the tent, and they told me about the academy.”

While enrolled in the undergraduate program at the Air Force Academy, she quenched her thirst for aeronautics by participating in the parachute jump team. As a leader on the team, she taught the introductory jump class and jumped out of a plane 600 times.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in economics and Chinese, Pineda moved from Colorado to Texas, where she completed the Air Force Intelligence Officer Course in 2014. She was then assigned as an intelligence officer on the space mission based in Vandenberg, California, where she monitored satellites and strategized with commanders.

“As an intel person on the base, I had to know about our adversaries’ capabilities in space and how they could affect our resources in the US and in space,” Pineda says.

While protecting the US from foreign adversaries was compelling, Pineda found her passion as an ROTC aerospace studies instructor at BYU.

“I thought I would love teaching since I really loved teaching the jump course at the Academy,” she says.

In addition to teaching introductory aerospace courses, Pineda also heads up the communications efforts of Detachment 855 as the recruiting flight commander. In this role, she has restructured the way the wing recruits new cadets, making it easier for potential recruits to find information through online and social media efforts. To start the overhaul, Cadet Jimmy Winegardner redesigned the detachment’s website to be more user-friendly.

The online efforts we have made provide a resource to back up what the cadets say about ROTC at face-to-face recruiting events, instead of just having their own words,” he says. “It’s a lot easier for people to share and talk about now.

Potential recruits, family members, and participants of the ROTC can follow the detachment on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Pineda made the accounts in an effort to go digital and segment potential recruits—and It’s working.

Since Pineda started her efforts in March, ROTC Air Force recruitment from BYU and UVU has added 70 recruits and jumped 37 percent.

“Lt. Pineda has been a major asset to the cadre,” says Maj. Ben Snell, assistant professor of aerospace studies at BYU.