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Military trailblazer speaks at Breaking Barriers event

By Airman 1st Class Shelby Pruitt | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | April 18, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, Air Force Recruiting Service commander, shared her story, leadership lessons and recruiting service challenges with members of Joint Base San Antonio at a Breaking Barriers event April 10 at the Fleenor Auditorium at JBSA-Randolph.

The purpose of the event was to inspire and motivate Airmen, as well as provide an opportunity for military members and their families in the JBSA community to ask questions and learn from Gen. Leavitt.   

 “I remember reading a quote on the wall during my time at Officer Training School. I believe it read, ‘History makes you smart, but heritage makes you proud,’” said 1st Lt. Kiely Meade, officer in charge of Transitions Operations, Headquarters Air Force Personnel Center. “Giving our Airmen a chance to interact with a living legend will inspire and potentially motivate them to go seek out their next challenge and continue a tradition of breaking barriers.”

Leavitt is known as a trailblazer because she is the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot, the first woman to command an Air Force combat fighter wing and, more recently, for being the inspiration for the Captain Marvel movie which is why this event was named, Breaking Barriers.

“It's not every day that the REAL Captain Marvel is available for questions,” Meade said.

Leavitt is known for her humble nature when it comes to the attention she receives for her accomplishments.  

“I just wanted to be a fighter pilot,” Leavitt said. “I was not interested in being the first. I wanted to be the 43rd or some number where nobody really cared because I didn’t really want the attention.”

During a previous interview, Leavitt recalls what a chief master sergeant said that made her change her perspective on telling her story.

“He said, ‘It’s not about you. Don’t get me wrong, you play an important role in the story, but the story is bigger than you. It’s about the Air Force. It’s about a change in policy, a change in how we execute as a team,’” Leavitt recalled. “What he said made me more comfortable telling my story.”

Her story began at the University of Texas, Austin, where she completed a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering in 1990. During her time at UT, she crossed paths with a lieutenant awaiting pilot training. After she learned about the aviation opportunities the Air Force offered, she went the very next day and joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps detachment and began making history.

“My story is unique to me and every single one of us has a story. You don’t realize how cool you are.  I encourage you to get out and tell your story, your experiences, the opportunities that were made available to you, and how the Air Force positively influenced your life,” Leavitt said.

Another topic Leavitt touched on was leadership.

“Leadership is not defined by your position. We have leaders at all levels,” she said.

Leavitt emphasized the importance of conscientious leadership. She recalled what she learned in weapons school: the importance of always striving to be humble, approachable and credible.

“It’s very important because you need to be credible in what you’re doing, but if you’re not humble and approachable, what good is that knowledge,” Leavitt said.

At the end of the event, attendees were offered an opportunity to ask Leavitt questions about her journey, Air Force recruiting and her experience working on the Captain Marvel movie.

“The event was a resounding success,” Meade said. “The crowd was a mix of Airmen, officers, civilians and even a few children. It is hard to believe that you could have left the theater without being a little more inspired than when you arrived.

“I hope the JBSA audience gained a stronger sense of Air Force pride and a better understanding of what it takes to chase the core value of excellence in all we do,” Meade said.