Making the NMI proud at USAF


2nd Lt. Ron Ron Catap, left, and 2d Lt. Haram Lee have both completed and graduated from Officer Training School in the U.S. Air Force on March 10, 2023. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Two homegrown individuals completed the U.S. Air Force’s Officer Training School in Montgomery, Alabama early this month, and bring pride to the Marianas as the first enlisted pilot from Saipan and most likely the first nurse from Saipan to directly commission in the U.S. Air Force.

Second Lt. Ron Ron Catap and 2d Lt. Haram Lee both completed and graduated from Officer Training School on March 10, 2023, and Lee shared that, while Catap was recognized as the first enlisted pilot from Saipan, she was told that she is the first nurse from Saipan to directly commission in the U.S. Air Force.

Lee explained that the training was a nine-week, four-phase program and took place from Jan. 10 to March 10, 2023.

In a conversation with Saipan Tribune, Lee said that, although she and Catap had known each other prior to the academy, they were surprised to find out they were in the same class upon entering the OTS. She was very grateful for that.

“Lt. Ron and I knew each other from before so it was a big surprise when we both found out that we were in the same class. We ended up being in the same squadron. …I owe him. He helped me a lot through the training,” she said.

Lee said that applying for the OTS took a year since there were no other nurses from Saipan who had applied for it. “I started the process around mid-2021 and got my acceptance letter for Officer Training School late last year. The process consists of getting qualified medically, academically, physically and, most importantly, passing an interview and being selected by the USAF board,” she said.

Upon joining the OTC soon after, she described the experience as “overwhelming” at first. “But I met great instructors and teammates who helped me push myself above and beyond my limits. …It’s insane how much you can learn and grow in just two months. The best part was building connections with the instructors and teammates. I didn’t realize that it was possible to be surrounded by so many smart and intelligent people with different background, job title, and personalities,” she said.

Catap started his career in the U.S. Air Force as an aircraft mechanic on C-17s, “so it was a lot of backbreaking work and time spent overseas.”

During his 10 years as an aircraft maintainer, he deployed five times, and spent an average of 200-plus days overseas. Catap was also a part of the crew that brought relief to Saipan after Super Typhoon Yutu hit the islands in 2018.

“My time as an aircraft mechanic is what really sparked my interest and goal of becoming a pilot. I went to school working on my B.S. in Aviation degree, while also taking flying lessons. I was able to obtain my commercial pilot license and instrument rating and even flew part-time for an aerial survey company, obtaining several hundred hours to gain experience. In 2019, the Air Force reinstated a program to allow enlisted pilots to fly Remotely Piloted Aircraft—most commonly referred to as RPAs or drones—and I was one of 96 enlisted airmen selected to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk. This was the first time since World War II that enlisted pilots were allowed to fly, so it was a huge deal. I flew the RQ-4 for nearly four years as a mission commander, but with the concurrent aircraft divestment and sunset of enlisted pilots, I decided commissioning was the next step in my career.”

As the first, and currently the only enlisted pilot from Saipan in the U.S. Air Force, Catap said he doesn’t take that distinction lightly. He sees it as a responsibility to be a good representative of the Marianas.

“In almost every room and team I am a part of, I am the lone person from Saipan, so I approach every situation as an opportunity to represent our islands. I believe every person away from home feels the same way, regardless of their profession. We may come from a tiny dot on the map and are few in numbers, but we make that up with our work ethic and pride,” he said.

Lee added, “It was difficult to leave my own comfort and placing myself in uncomfortable situations, but it gave me the opportunity to grow and learn. Accomplishing this milestone is giving me a feeling that I never quite felt before.”

Both Lee and Catap were born and raised on Saipan.

Before joining the Air Force. Lee was a Northern Marianas College alumni, graduating from its nursing program as the youngest student in class. She passed the National Council Licensure Examination a few months later and started working at the Pediatrics Department at the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. In 2021, Lee obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and passed her Certified Pediatric Nurse exam the following year.

Catap enlisted in the Air Force in 2009 right out of high school. Straight from graduation, he began working at Saipan World Resort’s Polynesian dinner show with Alana’ia as a musician. Catap said that the mere juggling of his work, along with sports, music and other priorities helped him prepare for an Air Force career.

From being an aircraft mechanic in the U.S. Air Force, Catap was selected as an enlisted pilot in 2019, and was recently commissioned through OTS and he will now be attending pilot training.

Since completing the OTS course, what’s comes next? Lee said she looks forward to pursuing higher education and gaining experience from all new opportunities.

“There are so many smart and talented students back home that deserve the best education and opportunities, so I hope my story is an inspiration to those back home that anything is possible with passion and persistence. Not knowing what the future holds can be scary, but I believe that it should rather be seen as an excitement for the success stories that will be told one day,” she said.

Catap noted that in short term, he hopes to complete and excel in pilot training and is working to be the best aviator he can be. As for the long term, he hopes to become an instructor and evaluator pilot and attend Weapons School.

“After the Air Force, I plan to transition to the airlines and continue to fly and inspire the next generation of aviators. I hope my story is a testament that it absolutely does not matter where you come from. If you put in the work, you can achieve your goals and dreams through planning, perseverance, and hard work. If a Filipino kid with immigrant parents and two first names from the island of Saipan can become an officer and future pilot in the Air Force, anyone can,” he added.

Catap was quick to credit his parents, wife, family, and friends for many of his successes. “No one makes it to this point in their military career and life alone. My parents were my early role models, instilling the importance of hard work. My wife, countless family, and friends have also supported me during this endeavor. Early on, my elementary teachers at [William S. Reyes Elementary School], to my high school teachers and coaches [at Marianas High School] like John Davis, Nick Gross, and Jesse Tudela all played a part in shaping me There are too many names to mention, but I know the CNMI always has my back,” said Catap.

Lee also said there are so many people she’d like to thank, but she most especially wanted to mention her NMC instructors: Mr. and Mrs. Aldan, and Mrs. Lee, her CHCC Pediatrics team and leadership: Jeannet Muylade and Renea Raho, her commissioning USAF officer: Col. Tudela, and her personal trainer, Enrico Valdez.

As of now, Catap will be taking pilot lessons in Mississippi, and Lee will be continuing as a nurse in Texas.

Chrystal Marino | Correspondents | Correspondents
A correspondent for Saipan Tribune, Chrystal Marino enjoys travelling, writing and meeting new people. When she is not writing, she finds ways to be involved in the community. She currently covers community beats. For any community news stories reach out to her at

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.