News>Airman making difference in Office of First Lady
First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are briefed by White House Fellow Lt. Col. Rodney Lewis Oct. 17, 2011, before a Joining Forces Initiative event in Washington. Lewis began his fellowship in August 2011 when he was assigned to the Office of the First Lady. (Official White House photo/Chuck Kennedy)
Lt. Col. Rodney Lewis joins other White House Fellows in a meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama Jan. 25, 2012, in the State Dining Room of the White House. Lewis' primary mission is to help further Obama's and Dr. Jill Biden's Joining Forces program, which is a national initiative that mobilizes all sectors of society to give service members and their families support. (Official White House photo/Sonya N. Hebert)
1/31/2012 - FORT MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- The former commander of the 4th Airlift Squadron at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., is one of four service members to have been accepted into the 15-member 2011-2012 class of White House Fellows.
Lt. Col. Rodney Lewis, a C-17A Globemaster III pilot, began his fellowship in August 2011 when he was assigned to the Office of the First Lady. The program provides those selected with an opportunity to work within the U.S. government, and it is intended to encourage active citizenship and a lifelong commitment to service.
"I think for any Airman to understand how our government works and how you as an Airman fit within the construct of our Constitution is key," Lewis said. "I will have a much better understanding of all three branches of government."
While there, Lewis' primary mission is to help further Michelle Obama's and Jill Biden's Joining Forces program, which is a national initiative that mobilizes all sectors of society to give service members and their families the support they have earned, according to the program's website.
Lewis explained that there are three pillars that make up Joining Forces: employment, education and wellness. The employment pillar focuses on helping veterans and spouses expand employment and career development opportunities, the education pillar helps military children by working with schools to make them more aware of their unique academic needs and the wellness pillar brings attention to critical issues facing veterans and their families.
"We don't work on issues that aren't real. This is about impacting all service members across the board. One of the biggest roles that I play is the understanding of the grassroots level and to put some validity to what we're working on with Joining Forces."
Lewis said one of the highlights of his fellowship was getting the opportunity to meet with a group of business leaders in New York who were interested in finding ways they could employ the talented veterans who are transitioning from the military.
Part of his role during the meeting was "breaking down stereotypes and answering questions about how they could do that," he said. "These individuals have the authority to go out and chart the direction of their companies and say, 'Yes, we are going to hire veterans. That's going to be a part of our strategy.'"
Lewis said he sees similarities between working at the White House and leading Airmen in the Air Force.
"A normal day here is much like being a commander in the Air Force," the lieutenant colonel explained. "I don't think of my day in terms of ending, but being able to create and move forward on the initiatives I'm working on. There are meetings that I will attend on behalf of Joining Forces but really my day is (about) going out and engaging government and private industry to help them understand and shape what the first lady wants to do with Joining Forces."
Lewis was directly responsible for the Defense Department's only prime nuclear airlift force, which handles the nation's most sensitive cargo and provides tactically qualified C-17A crews who stand ready to airdrop combat troops and supplies anywhere in the world.
In 2010, Lewis was awarded the Air Force Association National Medal of Merit for his work supporting children with medical problems in the Pilot for a Day program. He is a native of Oklahoma City, Okla.
The White House Fellows Program was created in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson to give promising American leaders "first- hand, high-level experience with the workings of the federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs," according to a White House press release.
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. contributed to this story.)
2/3/2012 1:22:52 PM ET Nothing against the LtCol, but he can have that job. I realize you have to apply for it, but if offered I wouldn't take it. I've seen all the tv spots the 1st lady has done and it looks like a lot of show. She just does not seem sincere and is just trying to make her family appeal to the military families. She also seems to take credit for a lot of programs that were already in place from previous 1st ladies. Don't waist my time and cut this office and save the tax payers some money.
2/2/2012 3:09:46 AM ET The uniform of the day is business attire for this assignment whether active military or civilian. Does not wearing a uniform make you any less military While the first and second ladies are not elected government officials they are political figure heads. They are not draining valuable military personnel from vital war fighting mission. Do you not think that the families of military member and veterans after serving there country not be able to find a job and provide for there families isn't a war You are sadly mistaken Although you all are entitled to your opinions you all should re-evaluate your negativities. This office is a dynamic way of giving back to those who serve and those who have served.
Fletch, War Zone
2/1/2012 9:50:27 PM ET LtC Lewis is a pretty great guy. I had the honor of meeting him and making his acquaintance at the Pilot for a Day program his squadron hosted for my son -who is a cancer patient- and his brother. From what I could see the professionalism esprit de corps and morale of his command was pretty exceptional- he gets some credit for that. I don't doubt for a second that Ltc. Lewis is having a very important and positive national impact in his current role. I can't imagine him doing anything but.
Alex, Seattle WA
2/1/2012 3:45:04 PM ET RC - I think their uniform of the day is business attire while they're assigned to the White House. Could be wrong though.
2/1/2012 8:24:36 AM ET Lt. Col. Rodney Lewis please could give me a POC for a request for the first lady to ask to visit the Alpena CRTC. This is a great base that would welcome the 1st lady and has never had a president or 1st lady visit this northen base of MI. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
BJ Donahue, alpena mi ang
2/1/2012 7:11:35 AM ET I am wondering why Lt Col Lewis and other fellows that are military are not shown in uniform Are they still on Active Duty while appointed as a fellow If so they should be in uniform while serving as a fellow I would think.
1/31/2012 2:55:16 PM ET I don't get it. A first lady is not a goverment official at all. She is not an employee of the federal government or an elected official. Spouses of elected officials department heads or senior military members should not be draining valuable military personnel from vital war fighting missions.
1/31/2012 10:43:40 AM ET Seems like kind of a waste of a good pilot in these lean times. I can't imagine he's using those flying skills the taxpayer paid for in this position.
1/31/2012 9:11:04 AM ET Wow such a positive story..... and the only one without any commentsThis initiative by the First and Second Ladies is a valuable one that will have a real impact on the lives of military families.Great job ladies -- and gentleman.