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Academy welcomes new superintendent

U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. (AFNS) -- The U.S. Air Force Academy reached its latest milestone here Monday when its new superintendent assumed command in a ceremony before hundreds of guests, Academy staff and cadets.

Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson told the crowd she looks forward to leading the Academy's mission of educating, training and inspiring men and women to become officers of character, motivated to lead the Air Force in service to the nation.

"I am honored, grateful and very happy to be the 19th superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy," Johnson said.

A class of 1981 distinguished graduate, Johnson was the Academy's first female cadet wing commander. Prior to earning her pilot wings in 1984, she attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar from 1981 to 1983, earning a Master of Arts degree in politics and economics. Johnson also played varsity basketball throughout her four years at the Academy, and is the second all-time leading scorer for Air Force.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh presided over the change of command and asked Johnson to strive to earn the trust of Academy Airmen and cadets.

"These are the future leaders of our Air Force and the remarkable staff and faculty who prepare them for that role," he said to Johnson, referring to the crowd. "I need you to lead them. I need you to inspire them. I need you to take care of them -- and I absolutely know that you're the right person for this job."

Johnson's prior assignments have helped her better understand what it means to be an Airman, she said.

"Sometimes we say words like 'global vigilance, global reach, global strike,' and we think we understand it, but when you're in the middle of an operation and see what the U.S. Air Force brings -- our allies and our foes alike see that in us," she said. "As we stand here, we can't forget that we aren't just standing here as ourselves, we're representing the U.S. Air Force."

As Johnson addressed the crowd, she emphasized the importance of staying current to accomplish the mission.

"I have a lot of listening to do, a lot of learning to do -- to understand how things are now to better help us go forward together, Johnson said. "I also know we'll inevitably face challenges ... It won't be easy, but we can find meaning in adversity, and there are lessons from overcoming negative experiences and to grow stronger through them."

Johnson takes over for Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, a 1976 Academy graduate who served as Academy superintendent for four years. Gould officially retires from the Air Force Oct. 1 after 37 years of service.

Prior to taking on the role of Academy superintendent, Johnson served as the deputy chief of staff of operations and intelligence at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe for NATO.

Johnson vowed to fully devote herself to her new duties and said she was more than enthusiastic about meeting Academy Airmen and staff.

"I can't wait to get started," Johnson said. "Let's go!"

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