Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing commander, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., poses for a portrait on the flightline July 15, 2016. Leavitt is responsible for 34 squadrons at 13 installations constituting the Air Force’s most diverse flying wing.
(Photo // Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum)

Airman Magazine: Can you recall a specific time when you failed or took a calculated risk which ultimately propelled you forward, either personally or on a specific mission?

Brig. Gen. Leavitt: When I graduated from pilot training, the law had changed to allow women in combat, but the Department of Defense policy did not allow women in combat. I graduated number one in my class, and there was an F-15E Strike Eagle, and I was told that if I selected it, I would be told no. I had a decision to make, and it was a calculated risk. I asked for the F15E Strike Eagle, and I was directed to make another selection, so I did. It wasn’t until a few months later that my assignment changed because the Department of Defense changed their policy to allowed women to fly fighters. Because they allowed women in combat, the Air Force allowed me to go to fighter training.

It doesn’t sound like it now, but at the time it was a big risk. A lot of people gave me advice that I should not ask for the fighter because I knew it was against DoD policy, but in my heart, I knew that policy was going to change and I just wanted it on record. It was a risk I’m happy I took.

We honor you, Jeannie Leavitt.

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