SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Maj. Gen. Jeannie M. Leavitt has had a storied and historic more than 30-year Air Force career from the time she commissioned in January 1992.
She was the service’s first female fighter pilot when she stepped into an F-15E Strike Eagle in 1993. She later became the first female commander of a combat fighter wing in 2012.
But it’s the here, now and tomorrow the Chief of Safety for the Air and Space Forces encouraged women to focus on at one of several professional development moments for Airmen and leaders during a visit to Sheppard AFB, April 1, 2022. It was her first visit to the North Texas base, which also included being the guest speaker at the 80th Flying Training Wing’s Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training class 22-04 graduation.
Leavitt shared her experiences with the newest generation of female aviators and others, from an ROTC cadet at the University of Texas all the way to current position as the Department of the Air Force Chief of Safety.
“We all get knocked down,” she said while speaking about her career. “The question is ‘what do you do?’ You just have to have that unwillingness to give up, you know; that grit factor.”
The general began her mentoring montage with a breakfast event with female instructor pilots and student pilots from ENJJPT. The women had an opportunity to ask Maj. Gen. Leavitt their questions directly and receive valuable information from the very person who helped pave the way for them.
She later led an all-female All Call with Airmen from the 80th FTW and the 82nd Training Wing.
Leavitt answered questions from her personal journey ranging from finding mentors in an Air Force with so few female fighter pilots to plans being made to help female pilots who become pregnant stay competitive with their peers. At the end of her time with the Airmen she had the opportunity to speak to, she went on to encourage them to strive for greatness.
“Believe in yourself,” she said. “Don’t let the past define you. It’s all part of our story, but we define our present and our future.”
With all of her achievements and her mark on American and Air Force history made, she still makes it a priority to get out and engage. She encouraged those at the professional development events to do the same.
“The way I see it is if I inspire some young boy or girl to dream big, work hard, and achieve more than they thought possible, it’s a win for national security. It doesn’t matter if they join the military or not because we will be a stronger society.”