Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson took over the reins of the Air Force Academy during a change of command ceremony Aug. 12 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Johnson is the first female to be superintendent at the academy. (Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette via AP)
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, COLO. — The first woman to lead the Air Force Academy took over the job Monday, but Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said she’s not dwelling on the significance of the milestone.
Johnson, a 1981 graduate of the school and former professor at the academy, said her appointment is an example of the nation’s willingness to give everyone a chance.
“I was very blessed to be born where I was and when I was,” said Johnson, who was also the academy’s first female cadet wing commander and first female Rhodes scholar.
Much of the ceremony was focused on the man Johnson is replacing, retiring Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, The Gazette of Colorado Springs reported (http://bit.ly/1bpwQiv ). He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his four years of leadership at the school.
Johnson told the school’s 4,000 cadets that she wants them to understand the Air Force’s global influence, and she stressed that its capabilities are balanced on the shoulders of sergeants and airmen.
“We as officers really have to be on our game to lead them the way they deserve,” she said.
Johnson is the second woman appointed to command a service academy, after Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, who became superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., in 2011.
Johnson’s most recent assignment was as NATO’s deputy chief of staff for operations and intelligence.
As a Rhodes scholar, Johnson earned a master’s degree in politics and economics from Oxford University. She also holds a master’s degree in national security strategy from the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington.
She played varsity basketball all four years at the Air Force Academy and is the women’s team’s second-highest all-time scorer with 1,706 points.
Johnson was an assistant professor of political science and instructor pilot at the academy from July 1989 until May 1992.
She is a command pilot with more than 3,600 flight hours in large cargo planes and aerial refueling tankers.