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Smart Brass

New 403rd Wing commander launched career with a law degree

by Dana Sleger


Col. Jennie Johnson is a smart and powerful woman with a long list of awards and decorations garnered throughout her 23-year career in the United States Air Force. One significant accolade was her recent appointment as the first female commander of the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base.

Johnson also attended law school at Marshall-Wythe School of Law, College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and after her assignment as an assistant staff judge advocate, she became a C-130 navigator. Since entering the Air Force Reserve in 2003 after nine years of active duty, Johnson has held a number of military leadership positions, and as a civilian, she has served corporate clients for more than 12 years at one of the four largest professional services networks in the world.

Gulf Coast Woman recently asked Johnson to share about her personal and professional life.


What is your vision for this new command/role at Keesler Air Force Base?

My priority is to take care of our Airmen so they can accomplish the mission. My job is to ensure we provide the right training and resources required to the more than 1,500 Reserve Citizen Airmen in this wing so they can provide tactical airlift, aeromedical evacuation and agile combat support to combatant commanders, as well as aerial weather reconnaissance to gather data that improves National Hurricane Center forecasts.


Col. Jennie Johnson, 403rd Wing commander, speaks during a commander’s call at Keesler Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photography by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens).


Who are your heroes and why?

My heroes are our Reserve Citizen Airmen. They courageously volunteer to serve our nation and accomplish amazing feats in defense of this nation, while selflessly sacrificing time away from their loved ones. We ask so much of them, and some people may not realize how challenging it can be to balance the needs of their families as well as their civilian job and Air Force Reserve requirements.


Do you have a favorite quote?

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” — Helen Keller


When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a lawyer. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to go to law school. I enjoyed the intellectual challenge, and I initially joined the Air Force as a lawyer.


Maj. Gen. John P. Stokes, 22nd Air Force commander, passes the 403rd Wing guidon to Johnson during a change of command ceremony in May. (U.S. Air Force photograph/Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney).


What was that “ah-ha” moment when you knew you wanted to join the military?

I knew I wanted to do something bigger than myself.

Serving my country in the military seemed like a great fit for me. I was already a private pilot so the Air Force was a natural choice. I went from college right to law school and applied to the Air Force the fall of my second year of law school.


What advice would you give to women considering a career in the military?

Do it! You will have the opportunity to work with a diverse group of people who are true amazing professionals and patriots. The Air Force has more than 200 career options in which a woman can pursue her interest, find her strength and elevate her skills while serving our great nation. I’ve been serving for more than 20 years and the Air Force Reserve is my family. No other employer is like the Air Force.

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