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Georgia Air National Guard gets its first female wing commander

Georgia Air National Guard (Georgia National Guard/Flickr)

When Amy Holbeck graduated from Tennessee Technological University in 1997, she was incredibly shy and had no intentions to be an officer in the military.

Col. Holbeck, who lives in Macon, will take control of the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Wing as the first female wing commander in the more than 70 year history of the Georgia Air National Guard.

There will be a In a change-of-command ceremony Sunday at the Museum of Aviation.

“I’m looking forward to serving the men and women of the 116th Air Control Wing and partnering with the men and women of the 461st Air Control Wing, as well as Army JSTARS, all of our local mission partners and community partners to continue to provide excellent command and control intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to all the combatant commanders just as we have for the last two decades,” Holbeck said.

The 116th Air Control Wing is the Georgia Air National Guard’s portion of Team Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, the Air Force’s first total force initiative wing formed in 2002 that also includes the Air Combat Command’s 461st Air Control Wing and the active duty Army Intelligence and Security Command’s 138th Military Intelligence Company.

In Holbeck’s job as wing commander of the 116th wing, she will work with the commanders of the other units to lead Team JSTARS as well as lead the 116th in their other missions, such as providing assistance during national emergencies.

She had planned to work in zoology

Holbeck didn’t have a plan when she graduated college with a degree in zoology, she said.

“I had always been intrigued by the military — a huge patriotic sense. So I just went to the recruiter, and the rest is history,” she said.

She enlisted in the Air Force as a guidance and control systems specialist stationed at the 357th Fighter Squadron at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

Holbeck said her supervisors found out she already had a college education and strongly encouraged her to become an officer.

“I didn’t want to be an officer because I didn’t want to do paperwork. I just wanted to do my job and go home, so they told me that I was stupid and that I needed to become an officer,” she said with a laugh.

She commissioned as an officer in 2000 and was stationed at Robins Air Force Base as an air battle manager on the E-8C Joint STARS aircraft with the 93rd Air Control Wing, according to a news release.

She transitioned from active duty in 2008 to the 116th Air Control Wing as an Air National Guardsman, and in 2019, she became the vice wing commander.

After 20 years of service, Holbeck planned to retire and become a missionary, but she said she was offered a promotion to colonel.

“I decided to stay and take the promotion. … So here I am, which I’m very happy that I did, because that opened up an opportunity to be the Wing Commander. If I would have retired, obviously I wouldn’t be sitting here today,” Holbeck said.

Becoming a commander

When Holbeck graduated college, she said she had no intentions of becoming an officer much less a wing commander.

Although she was incredibly shy in her 20’s, she said the military and her involvement in her church helped her step out of her shell.

In her position as an air battle manager, she said she was required to give briefings throughout her career.

At the same time, she was taking more leadership responsibilities at her church, Shady Grove Baptist Church.

“Much like in the military, I’ve had good leaders and mentors that have kind of put me in positions that have challenged me and grew me professionally,” she said. “The same thing was happening personally and professionally, and I just see it as God orchestrating the whole thing to prepare me for where I am.”

Because she was required to speak in front of people in church and in her job, she said it became easier.

“The most important thing is that I thank God actually, for … for all my success,” Holbeck said with tears in her eyes.

She hopes to be a positive role model for both men and women in her new position, Holbeck said.

“I’m honored, obviously and humbled to have the opportunity to be the Wing Commander. I just so happen to be female, but I realize being a first I’m seen as an inspiration to other women, and so I appreciate that and I accept that responsibility,” she said. “I just want to encourage everyone to give their best and have a positive attitude, and I believe that anyone can succeed in what they’re trying to do if they do those two things.”


© 2020 The Macon Telegraph