The Strength of Our Nation Published March 4, 2014 By Lt. Gen. Darren McDew Commander, 18th Air Force SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Fellow Mobility Leaders and Teammates, Our Nation was founded on a belief in equality and justice for all. Our history is replete with examples of women that have challenged injustice, and worked to ensure America's commitment to the rights, security, and dignity of all its citizens. Many of them have worn the cloth of their country, and in so doing, shaped the military we proudly serve in today. For our Air Force, we recall women like aviator Jackie Cochran, whose desire to defend her Nation led to the formation of the Women Air Force Service Pilots program, more than 1,000 strong, who flew 60 million miles in support of the war effort. Although their efforts were considered a "civil service", they broke ground for the female pilots that followed in their footsteps decades later. Our Air Force is fortunate to count among its ranks thousands of "Jackie Cochrans", Airmen who have broken barriers, defied expectations and served America with great courage and dedication. These women have often been in the line of fire, serving alongside and leading their fellow Airmen to excellence. Closer to home, Airmen like our current vice commander, Maj Gen Barbara Faulkenberry; past vice commander Maj Gen Maggie Woodward; AMC's Mobilization Assistant to the Commander, Maj Gen Stayce Harris (an 18 AF alumnus); and the AMC Command Chief Vicki Gamble (our former 18 AF Command Chief) embody the same bold spirit of Jackie Cochran. Theirs is a spirit of courage that continues to open doors to senior leadership within our service. Few Airmen have had the impact of Maj Gen Faulkenberry. Her keen operational insight, dedication to excellence, and bold leadership has been admired across our service ... and across the globe. As my strong right hand, she has assured the success of our mission, and in so doing assured success of America's rapid global mobility enterprise. Maj Gen Woodward recently retired from our ranks after a career of distinguished service to our Nation. As the Joint Force Air Component Commander for our operations in Libya, she became the first woman in U.S. history to oversee an air campaign. But that historical "first" is no less important than the lasting contribution she made for all Airmen as the Director of the Air Force's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. As we continue to strengthen a culture of respect across our force, we owe her thanks for her outstanding leadership. As the highest ranking African-American female in the Air Force (and the first and only one to command a flying wing), Maj Gen Harris brings a unique perspective to our Air Force. It is that perspective, coupled with a phenomenal reputation for bold leadership and operational excellence, that is part of the great tapestry of diversity that makes our Air Force strong. Last, but far from least, there is the first female Command Chief of Eighteenth Air Force, CMSgt Vicki Gamble. There are few assignments in our Air Force as challenging and rewarding as Command Chief, and fewer Airmen who have the dedication, talent, and most of all ... superior leadership skills to carry out that sacred trust. Chief Gamble is one of the few in our Air Force who has EARNED the distinguished title of Command Chief at the wing, NAF, and MAJCOM levels. There are many, many more Jackie Cochrans, Barbara Faulkenberrys, Maggie Woodwards, Stayce Harris', and Vicki Gambles in our service, including many of you. What these Airmen have in common are the characteristics that make our Air Force the world's finest air and space force: bold leadership and a commitment to excellence. This month, as we honor women's history by recognizing the contributions of those that laid the foundations for our military and our Nation, I ask you renew your solidarity with the values of leadership and courage they embody ... those values are our Nation's true strength. Finally, as always, thank you for your continued service and dedication to our fellow Airmen, our command, and the world's finest Air Force! EXPEDITE!!