AFMC Command News

AFTC honors Women's History Month: interview with Capt. Laura Quaco

  • Published
  • By Tiffany Holloway
  • Air Force Test Center

As we wrap up our Women’s History Month celebration, we highlight, Capt. Laura Quaco. Currently, she is the Air Force Test Center Military Justice chief. Quaco fills us in on why she joined the Air Force and shares one of the women who has been influential in her career during a question and answer session with Tiffany Holloway, AFTC public affairs director.

Holloway: How long have you been in the Air Force? Where have you been stationed so far?

Quaco: I have been in the Air Force for approximately five-and-a-half years.  I arrived to AFTC in October 2020.  I came from Goodfellow AFB, Texas where I was the Special Victims’ Counsel.  Prior to that, I was at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington where I served as chief of Adverse Actions, chief of General Law, and chief of Legal Assistance and Preventive Law in the base legal office.

Holloway: You’re a newbie! Welcome! Can you tell me why you joined the Air Force? Were you a military brat? Did you know you were going to join the military growing up?

Quaco: I knew I wanted to join the military when I was younger.  My father and grandfather both retired from the Air Force; my father was a B-52 navigator and my grandfather was a B-47 and C-130 navigator.  Growing up hearing my dad’s stories and about the close bonds he formed with his fellow airmen made me realize it was a community I would be lucky to belong to and serve alongside.   

Holloway: Okay, so tell me why you chose to go into the legal field.

Quaco: While I knew I wanted to serve when I was younger, I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do.  I wanted to have some control over the direction of my service and ensure it included a subject matter for which I was truly passionate.  In college, I double majored in criminal justice and psychology, so at that point, I knew I was destined to serve as a judge advocate or mental health provider.  I decided to go to law school and apply for the Air Force JAG Corps Summer Internship program after my first year.  I was fortunate enough to be selected and complete an internship at the base legal office at Travis AFB, California.  It was that internship which solidified my aspiration to serve as a judge advocate.  Specifically, I really loved the camaraderie I saw—not only amongst the airmen in the legal office, but also when interacting with commanders, first sergeants, OSI, etc.  Additionally, I really liked the idea that being a judge advocate was more than practicing law, it was about being an Airman, first and foremost, and helping to further a larger mission.

Holloway: I can tell that you’re not only passionate about the legal field but also the Air Force. That’s awesome! What advice do you give female Airmen who are facing challenges with their careers?

Quaco: If I have a chance to sneak in a cliché lawyer answer, I will: it depends.  My advice varies depending on the context of the individual Airman’s situation.  However, one piece of advice I have that I believe is broadly applicable to a variety of situations is that communication is key.  In my experience, I have found most difficulties can be overcome by talking to someone.  If the adversity stems from the actions or behaviors of another person, talk to that person.  Most of the time, interpersonal conflicts seem to be a result of misunderstanding and not a result of a malicious intent to cause harm.  Communication, when done in an appropriate manner and taking into consideration the military environment, can be a very effective tool in educating others as to perceptions caused by their behaviors.  If the career challenges are caused by external factors outside of the work place, communication with a mentor, spouse, friend, or other available resource (such as a mental health provider, chaplain, etc.) can be helpful.  Without communication, it is very difficult to overcome adversity.  Sitting in silence and learning to deal with a particular challenge is ineffective and could cause more harm than good.  It is equally important to maintain an open mind when receiving communication and try to understand the perspective of others.  Communication can be very empowering and effective when used appropriately, and enhances the ability to lead and be led.

Holloway: I couldn’t agree more. Communication is really the key. I’m curious. Who is the most influential woman you know? What’s the one thing that she has instilled in you to motivate you to persevere?

Quaco: While I do not have the fortune of having known her personally, one of the most influential women who motivates me is the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  She was part of a very small minority of women to attend law school in the 1950s and faced much adversity and gender discrimination.  Before becoming a Justice herself, she successfully argued multiple landmark cases in front of the Supreme Court of the United States.  She was a tireless trailblazer, believing the law was gender-blind and leading the fight against gender discrimination—not only discrimination of women, but also of men.  Aside from all of her magnificent accomplishments, Justice Ginsburg’s ability to maintain a family while breaking such significant barriers is inspiring to me.  She began law school already having a husband (who was a lawyer, himself) and a baby, then went on to have another child during her career.  Knowing that she was able to move such large mountains, figuratively speaking, while also having a family motivates me to do the same.

Holloway: Amazing! Justice Ginsburg is a great role model and so are you! As we close out this year’s Women’s History Month celebration, how can women’s equality help all people?

Quaco: Women’s equality can help all people in many ways—economically, scientifically, politically, socially, artistically, and in ways we cannot even yet comprehend.  Just imagine some of the most notable women in history and where we may be if someone held them back because of their gender, or more likely, if they didn’t disobey the gender norms of their time?  We also cannot begin to imagine the accomplishments we’ve missed out on or the significant delays in crucial discoveries because of gender “norms.”