1st Asian American group commander in NJ Air National Guard

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Julia Santiago
  • 108th Wing

As of June 1, 2019, Lt. Col. Mauricia Alo assumed command of the 108th Medical Group and became the first Asian American group commander in the New Jersey Air National Guard.

“This country has done so much for me,” said Alo. “I want to give back to this country.”

With only $100 in her pocket, Alo immigrated to the United States from the Philippines on March 8, 1990.

“I went by myself to America to work and find a better future for my two daughters,” said Alo. “For two years, I was by myself in the U.S. without my family, but I did it to have more opportunities for them.”

Alo was born in Cebu City, Philippines and grew up in Badian, Cebu. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Southern Islands Hospital School of Nursing in Cebu City with a bachelor’s in nursing and midwifery in 1982. After teaching nursing and midwifery for several years, she immigrated to the U.S. to practice nursing in New York City. While there, she completed her master’s degree in nursing with a specialty in critical care from Columbia University. She then started working as an operating room nurse in New York during the AIDS crisis.

While Alo’s nursing skills were growing, the seed for starting a military career was planted.

“My dad was instrumental for me to join the United States Air Force,” said Alo. “He told me I should serve since I already love to serve people as a nurse. He knew I would be good at it.”

Alo’s father, Fruto Alo, was also a retired lieutenant colonel with the Philippine Army, and he served alongside U.S. forces during World War II.

After almost eight years of being in the U.S., on Feb. 20, 1998, Alo became an American citizen.

“After swearing in to become an American citizen, I drove over right away to the recruiter’s office in Brooklyn, New York and commissioned in the U.S. Air Force,” said Alo. “Becoming a citizen was the last step in order for me to commission, which my dad has always encouraged me to do.”

Alo received a direct commission as a captain in the U.S. Air Force in February 1998. Alo served nearly eight years on active duty and then 12 years in the Air Reserve.

“Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico is where I first found my military family,” said Alo. “I joined the honor guard as only one of two officers in the whole program.”

After serving at Cannon AFB, Alo’s later assignments included Yokota Air Base, Japan, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, and McGuire AFB, N.J. Alo has served in various operational assignments, including a deployment to Okinawa, Japan serving as the elemental chief, and as a key contributor responsible for transitioning aeromedical evacuation management from the C-9A Nightingale to the C-17 Globemaster III.

“My dad was always my biggest supporter and helped me so much throughout my military career,” said Alo. “When I became a single mom, he helped by watching my kids when I would go away on trips for the military.”

After leaving active duty in December 2005, Alo became the sole Individual Mobilization Augmentee nurse practitioner for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., until June 2015.

“I was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 2012 and had nowhere to go,” said Alo. “My supervisors were telling me that I had to move on because I was now a lieutenant colonel. It was Lt. Col. Barry Slater who introduced me to the Air National Guard.”

In 2015, Alo started as an overage in the 108th Medical Group as a chief nurse.

“The medical group needed more providers, so I became a provider in 2017,” said Alo. “The medical group needed flight surgeons, so I went to the Aerospace Medicine School in Wright-[Patterson AFB], Ohio and became a flight nurse practitioner in April 2018.”

In the same year that she became the 108th MDG’s first flight nurse practitioner, Alo completed Air War College in correspondence, which is needed to become a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. With her experience and education under her belt, Alo applied to both openings for the medical group commander position at the 177th Fighter Wing and 108th Wing.

“I found out on Easter Sunday that I got the job as the 108th Medical Group commander,” said Alo. “Col. Cosgrove called me and I was so thrilled.”

When Alo assumed command of the 108th MDG, she made history by becoming the first Asian American group commander, man or woman, in the New Jersey Air National Guard.

“I am humbled to be the first Asian American group commander,” said Alo. “The trust and support from everyone has been overwhelming and I am so grateful. I am ready for a command position. I feel that my experience and skills will help me be a productive commander for the medical group.”

As the 108th Medical Group commander, she is responsible for directing all medical support for the 108th Wing. As commander, she serves as the chief executive officer responsible for ensuring the medical readiness of 1,200 Airmen and supporting various missions to include rapid global air power, worldwide combat, contingency operations, humanitarian efforts and domestic disaster response.

“I want to bring the group together even more than they already are,” said Alo. “The people of the medical group are the most important thing to me. Everyone should be respected. I hope to bring the medical group to a higher level of excellence. By doing so, we will be better for the whole wing.”

Currently, Alo is board certified as an adult nurse practitioner by the American Academy Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and holds an additional board certification as a nurse executive by ANCC.