Las Vegas Sun

April 19, 2019

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Q+A: Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt:

Trailblazing officer says goodbye to Nellis Air Force Base

Jeannie Leavitt


Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt became the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot in 1993.

Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, who departed Friday as commander of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, has been a trailblazer throughout her Air Force career.

In 1993, she became the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot. She was later the first woman to command a combat fighter wing and two years ago, she became the first woman to command the 57th Wing, which conducts advanced air combat training.

Leavitt is next headed to Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, where she will lead the Air Force Recruiting Service.

You’re known for a lot firsts for a woman in the Air Force. Talk about what those milestones mean to you.

I tend to not focus on the first, because a lot of that was timing. The Air Force has presented me with a number of incredible opportunities, and I’ve been very fortunate. My advice for folks is to always do your best and when an opportunity presents itself, I’d go after it.

What do you think your greatest accomplishment has been over the past two years?

The biggest accomplishment is actually a series of smaller accomplishments all pooled together. We have an incredibly talented group of people in the 57th Wing and one of the things that I worked very hard on was to take care of that talent. I’d say taking care of the men and women of our 57th Wing has been my greatest accomplishment.

In your two years at Nellis, how have you seen the base change?

The number of F-35s (fighter jets) we have here on the ramp has more than doubled in the two years that I’ve been here. We saw the first participation of F-35 in Red Flag (exercises), initially with the Marine Corps F-35 in the summer of 2016. The first Air Force F-35s were in January 2017.

We’ve also had the F-35 weapons instructor course, the 6th Weapons Squadron, that stood up last summer.

Other things that have happened is we stood up the CAS (Close Air Support) Integration Program. It’s something that we do with our ground forces — Army, Marines, coalition forces.

It’s focused on being the center for all things integration with our ground components. As part of that, we stood up a flying squadron, the 24th TASS, our tactical air support squadron.

What are you taking away from your time in Las Vegas?

We’ve enjoyed interacting with the Las Vegas community. It’s a very patriotic community, and we have felt very welcomed. We’ve enjoyed when we’ve been able to find new and creative ways to connect, whether it’s the Raiders draft (event) or it’s going out and talking to schools. The Vegas Golden Knights — we’ve done a couple of flybys during their home games.

How did the flybys come about?

In general, we don’t fly over a domed stadium because the people inside can’t see. However, when we looked at the situation here, with the incredible impact the Golden Knights have had on the city ... we have this brand-new team and so much enthusiasm and rallying around this team. Plus, they’re an expansion team. Expansion teams aren’t supposed to win, right? And here they are going to the Stanley Cup (Final).

We talked to Air Force leadership and said, this is a good thing and it will be televised. They’ll see it; they do show it inside the arena, and there’s a huge crowd outside. So, we are very happy we were able to perform those flybys.