The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command welcomed its first member to receive a direct commission into Functional Area 40 Army Space Operations.
Col. Donald K. Brooks, commandant, Space and Missile Defense Center of Excellence, USASMDC, presided over the commissioning of Capt. Jenniffer Estrada-Lupianez at Peterson Space Force Base, Colo., Nov. 3.
“For Estrada, the direct commission process started about a year ago when as a sergeant in the Army Reserve, she sought a commission through OCS [Officer Candidate School] but was not selected,” Brooks said. “As the resourceful individual she is and the kind of officer we look for to join our ranks, she sought information on the Army's Talent Management Task Force's Direct Commissioning initiative.”
The Direct Commissioning Program offers civilians and military members who possess specific, highly specialized talents, skills, and education an opportunity to be directly appointed as an officer in the Army without having to go through the traditional OCS or Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs.
“Through her research, she found her way to Army space and started working with the Army Space Personnel Development Office to submit her packet,” Brooks said. “Estrada interviewed with ASPDO in February 2023, and it was clear that she would make an ideal candidate. ASPDO formalized the application and began working it through the Army TMTF and Human Resources Command. Today is the culmination of a year's worth of multi-faceted efforts to make this commissioning happen.”
With her background and experience, Brooks said Estrada is a great fit for Army Space Operations in SMDC.
Estrada, a native of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, is continuing her family’s heritage and tradition of serving in the Army. Her father and uncle both served and she has several cousins who are serving.
“I joined the Army Reserves in my father’s memory, who passed from cancer a few years ago, and to give back to the Army community that has given me so much. I want to make a positive impact for the Army while wearing the uniform but also when I hang it up and work on the technologies that support Soldiers,” Estrada said.
As a civilian, she is a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the Intelligence and Space Research Division. Her work is centered on leveraging cutting-edge technologies which contribute to various national security and space research initiatives in collaboration with Department of Energy, the DoD and NASA.
She is currently a computer engineering Ph.D. candidate at University of New Mexico and has a master’s and bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Estrada previously worked as an embedded software engineer at General Electric and a hardware engineer at General Dynamics. She has taught as a university adjunct professor and published several scientific papers across various areas of sensor systems and high performance computing.
Estrada chose space operations because it was the perfect it for her.
“With the technical knowledge and experience I bring to the table as an engineer in space missions, and all I can learn from the Army and space operations community for the operational side, I hope I can be in service to the community, as a Soldier and civilian,” Estrada said.
Brooks said in looking at her resume, her civilian background, her accomplishments in college, her work toward earning her Ph.D., and her time as a sergeant in the Reserves, the direct commission is just another step in living the Army motto, “Be all you can be.”
As we set the conditions to become a branch, this direct commission further solidifies the importance of Army Space Operations and also further legitimizes this career field being a branch in the Army.
“Big congrats to Jennifer and her family,” Brooks said. “We are thrilled to welcome Capt. Estrada-Lupianez to the FA40 ranks as our first direct commissioned officer.”
Estrada says she is ready for the challenge.
“Going from ‘street to seat’ means I have quite a learning curve, but I have several fantastic mentors in my unit and in the space operations community who are teaching me so much,” Estrada said “I am excited for the opportunity to continue to learn from this community and giving back in this unique manner.”