Female flying squadron commanders in the Air Force are in the minority - a minority that now includes Wintersville native Lt. Col. Jacqueline "Jackie" D. Breeden.
The daughter of retired educators Dana and Carol Otis, former Wintersville residents who now live in Chapel Hill, N.C., assumed command of the 22nd Airlift Squadron at Travis Air Force Base in California.
The career milestone came during the Change of Command ceremony held June 15 and attended by Breeden's parents; her husband, Jason, a pilot for Southwest Airlines; their daughters Josey and Jenna; her sister and nephews, Jaimee Otis Summers and Ben and Liam Summers; her in-laws, Bob and Heather Cherichella; and close friends Col. Mark and Lynne Siefert.
The promotion brings new responsibilities and challenges for the 1990 graduate of Wintersville High School who had been serving as chief of safety, 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base.
"As the commander of the 22d Airlift Squadron, I am responsible for approximately 240 aircrew members (pilots, flight engineers, and loadmasters), three Department of Defense civilians, and four non-rated (non-flying) enlisted personnel," Breeden said.
"I lead, mentor, discipline and prepare my personnel so that they can successfully employ the C-5 as directed by higher headquarters. This includes oversight of the mobility/readiness of personnel to deploy when directed, the training, standardization and evaluation of aircrew performance, and the $680,000 annual operating budget which allows us to train, equip and operate," she said.
Budgetary constraints and doing more with less are her biggest challenges at present, according to Breeden, a senior pilot with more than 2,000 flight hours in the T-37B, T-1A and C-5A/B/C aircraft.
The mission of her squadron is answering the call of the national command authority to support a myriad of operations, any time, anywhere in the world.
"These operations include the positioning and de-positioning of personnel and equipment in support of ongoing contingency operations, supporting humanitarian relief operations and conducting the dignified transfer of human remains belonging to the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have made the ultimate sacrifice," said Breeden, whose military decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal and the Air Force Achievement Medal.
"My squadron's motto is, 'We Bring It To The Show,' and we have a legacy of doing it well that dates back 70 years, including historical operations such as the Berlin Airlift during World War II and the Vietnam Baby Lift during the fall of Saigon," she said.
The 22nd Transport Squadron originally was activated in April 1942 at Essendon Airdrome near Melbourne, Australia.
While there have been and currently are other women commanders in the Air Force, female flying squadron commanders "are definitely in the minority."
"To put things in perspective, I am one of three female C-5 pilots in my squadron of pilots, and there are only two C-5 squadrons in the active duty Air Force," said Breeden, who became interested in flying while she was at the Air Force Academy.
"After my Doolie (freshman) year, I had the opportunity to train and then solo in a glider. Following that experience I had the opportunity to get to fly in a KC-135 air refueler, a B-52 bomber and a C-141 airlifter. These experiences, combined with my Cessna 182 (military T-41) powered flight training during my Firstie (senior) year, motivated me to become a pilot," she said.
But flying wasn't originally on her career radar.
"Growing up I wanted to be a lawyer," Breeden said. "I was motivated by stories of my late grandfather, who had been a district attorney in upper state New York, and by my experience in the mock trial program at Wintersville High School. I was also interested in government while I was in high school, which led me to apply to George Washington University in D.C., as well as the U.S. Air Force Academy," she said.
"I was accepted to both institutions but could not pass up on the unique opportunities the academy provided. My uncle, an Air Force officer at the time, was also a source of inspiration when it came time to make my decision," Breeden continued. "I entered the academy intending to become an Intelligence officer and became enamored with the idea of being a pilot later on during my time there. As fate would have it, I had the opportunity to do both. I graduated and went into the Intelligence career field due to reductions in the pilot force following the Gulf War. When the Air Force reversed its policy in the late 1990s, I was fortunate enough to be selected from the Active Duty to pursue my dream of becoming a pilot," she said.
Breeden graduated from the academy in 1994 and went on to attend Intelligence Officer Training at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas. She then served as an intelligence officer while assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing, Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and again while assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
In 1999, she attended Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. She was assigned to the 436th Airlift Wing, Dover Air Force Base, Deleware, in 2000 and progressed to become an instructor aircraft commander while serving as a scheduler, deputy wing executive officer and chief of squadron training.
In 2005, she transitioned to the 56th Airlift Squadron, Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, where she instructed in the C-5 Formal Training Unit and held positions as group training officer and assistant director of operations until her selection for intermediate developmental education.
She completed the Air Officer Commanding Master's course in 2007 and took command of Cadet Squadron Three, U.S. Air Force Academy, in 2008, where she served until joining Team Travis.
Breeden said she feels blessed to have been given the opportunity to become squadron commander.
"There are only two active duty C-5 squadrons in the Air Force, and the competition to command is fierce," she said.
"It is a tremendous amount of responsibility, and I am grateful that my leadership not only trusts me with this responsibility but also has confidence in my ability to lead a unit this size and to employ the C-5 strategic airlift weapon system on missions worldwide."
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)