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Saturday, June 24, 2000

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Vicky Lia is sworn in as a first lieutenant into the
Air Force and receives a salute from Master Sgt.
Timothy Pugh, watched by her husband Franklin
and her son, Liokea.

Hard-working mom
reaches lofty goal

By Rod Ohira


Victoria "Vicky" Lia finally has her sky's-the-limit window of opportunity, thanks to the U.S. Air Force.

The 33-year-old wife and mother of two, who worked nights and attended school for eight years to earn master's degrees for both public and business administration in May 1999 from Chaminade University, was commissioned yesterday as a first lieutenant in the Air Force.

The commission gives her an opportunity to apply her education in the workplace, something she was unable to do in the private sector.

"I think I'm going to start off at a hospital, maybe like managing a section," said Lia. "My goal is to command a clinic or hospital.

"My education turned out to be a handicap for me in the private sector. I was education heavy and they always told me I didn't have experience or that I was overqualified for a job.

"I'll get the experience now."

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Lia is hugged by her daughter, Kaliana.

Master Sgt. Timothy Pugh, an Air Force recruiter, says Lia's educational qualifications and high test scores factored into her commission as a first, rather than second, lieutenant.

"It positions her for more of a leadership than management role," said Pugh, who points out that the Air Force has 41,000 enlisted and 4,000 officer positions to fill this year.

The next stop for Vicky, her husband, Franklin, and son, Liokea, will be officers training school in Montgomery, Ala., on July 25. Lia will train four weeks in Alabama and eight weeks at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

"I know that from there I'll be stationed at Edwards Air Force Base (in Kern County, Calif.)," she said.

The Lias' 13-year-old daughter, Kaliana, will remain in Hawaii to finish her education at Kamehameha Schools.

"It's been worth it," said Vicky Lia, orphaned twice by age 17 and raised by her grandmother, Mabel Perez, and relatives. "I've experienced a lot of learning and growing.

"Franklin is going to be a Mr. Mom for three more months and then we've agreed that he will go back to school. Over the years, he's sacrificed so much and has provided the stability for our family."

After receiving her master's degrees, Lia was on schedule to receive her commission in December but suffered a setback.

"Everything was going fine," she said. "I quit my job and we put our home on the market.

But Lia had to put her plans on hold when the Pap smear she took to test for cervical cancer in November as part of a routine medical examination turned out positive.

Lia got a second opinion which found that she had a virus that affected the first test result.

But the Air Force bumped Lia from its December class, forcing the family to rent a home in Aiea and Vicky to find a job until she could qualify medically.

"There was another class in March, but we had to wait six months for the virus to clear up," Lia said. "I took another test in May and the results were negative like everyone expected."

Lia was commissioned yesterday by her mentor, Shirley Cavanaugh, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and former communications director for the Office of the Hawaii State Senate President.

Cavanaugh recalls the leadership potential she saw in Lia when she first met her. Lia was then a legislative aide.

"Undaunted by her lack of experience, she did not hesitate to recommend improvements to the legislative process to better serve constituents," Cavanaugh said.

"These abilities to see the big picture, look for better ways to do the job, and take charge to make things happen are qualities inherent in a good leader."

Cavanaugh has no doubts that Lia will accomplish the goals she's set for herself in the Air Force.

"Vicky is a doer, she doesn't sit back and let the world go by," said Cavanaugh, who now works at the University of Hawaii. "Instead she sets goals, reaches them, and aspires to higher ones."

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