Editor’s Note: “Tally” has been an inspiration for most of our female fighter pilot friends. She was the Air Force’s very first female fighter pilot, the first female fighter pilot to graduate from the prestigious Weapons School, the first female fighter pilot to become a WIC instructor, and the first female to command an active-duty fighter wing. She has now been selected to return to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada to command the 57th Wing.
Keeping in lockstep with the Pentagon’s direction to open all positions, including combat roles, to women, Nellis Air Force Base will also break the gender barrier this year in its command leadership.
Base officials confirmed Tuesday that Colonel Jeannie M. Leavitt will join the ranks of the base’s top brass by taking the reins of the 57th Wing, becoming the highest-ranking female officer to command at Nellis.
“We look forward to her leadership here,” Nellis public affairs officer Major Teresa Sullivan said.
She noted that command leadership positions at Nellis have always been open to women, but this is the first time that a woman will command the 57th Wing. She was selected because she was the most qualified for the position, Sullivan said.
Selected for the rank of Brigadier General, she will command the wing, which manages all flying operations at the base, including Red Flag and Green Flag air combat training exercises. The 57th Wing also runs the graduate-level U.S. Air Force Weapons School, oversees the world-renowned Thunderbirds air demonstration team and supports the Air Force Warfare Center’s test-and-evaluation activities.
Leavitt, who became the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot in 1993, currently serves as Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s principal military assistant at the Pentagon. Attempts to reach her Tuesday through a duty officer at the Office of the Secretary of Defense were unsuccessful because of closures in Washington, D.C., due to this week’s heavy snowfall.
She is an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot whose flight hours include 300 in combat, mostly over Afghanistan and Iraq but also in Operation Southern Watch, where she helped thwart an Iraqi surface-to-air threat against a United Kingdom aircraft in 1996.
Her selection for brigadier general was announced Jan. 21 by the Pentagon along with promotions that affect the two-year rotation in leadership at Nellis.
Keith Rogers’ original article can be viewed here.
(Featured photo by Scott Wolff)