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First female assumes command of ANG fighter wing

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Gary A. Daniel
  • 124th Fighter Wing
Col. Sherrie McCandless, the first woman selected to command the 124th Fighter Wing and first female wing commander in Idaho Air National Guard history, assumed command in a ceremony on March 2, at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho.

"We have a no-fail mission. It is absolutely imperative that we respond diligently -- as you have throughout the years," McCandless said.

"We are going to remain trained, focused and responsive on our current mission here and now. It is difficult to see clearly into the future, but what I see extremely clearly is our airmen. The equipment can be replaced, but our airmen remain. It's the lifetime patriots that we are; we get up in the morning and head into work."

McCandless just completed service as the director, plans and requirements, at the National Guard Bureau. She is a former airlift squadron commander, a command pilot with flying experience in the T-38 Talon, F-16 Fighting Falcon, C-40 Clipper and C-38 aircraft, an air liaison officer and a combat veteran. She has served as the executive officer to the chief of the Air National Guard, as aide-de-camp to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, and as a congressional liaison officer.

McCandless became the fifteenth wing commander of the 124th Fighter Wing.

"Any time you are moving into a position of leadership like this, you are always standing on the shoulders of those commanders that stood before you," she said.

"I would like to extend a personal thank you to Col. Chris Rood (the outgoing wing commander) for all his support during this transition. Thank you, General Nolan, (a previous wing commander) I know it takes everything that you've got to lead an organization at this level," she said.

Brig. Gen. Michael Nolan, the assistant adjutant general, Air, commander Idaho Air National Guard, presided over the ceremony. As he began to address the historic wing change of command he remarked upon the static A-10 Thunderbolt II just to right of the ceremony stage.

"She is a workhorse, and the hundreds of combat hours she has flown is a fine representation (of the 124th FW)," he said.

He thanked Col. Chris Rood for his service as 124th FW commander, vice commander and for his leadership through the process of a successful outcome to the 2013 consolidated unit inspection.

"The success of those inspections was in large part due to your efforts and the efforts of those you led," he said.

He proceeded to address the future of the Idaho Air National Guard.

"Today we find ourselves navigating a bit of rough air facing a potential divesture of the A-10 mission," he said. "Despite our confidence that has come with years of success, we find ourselves anxious about an uncertain future. But we are navigating, we are not adrift, we are flying a charted course. Our mission is clear, it is to fly, fight, and win.

"We are not in uncharted waters; the uncertainty we face is mission change," he continued. "We have successfully navigated mission change on several occasions. As always, we will succeed. Let's not focus on uncertainty, but on opportunities that come with certain change. They are numerous." 

As he summarized the resumé of incoming fighter wing commander McCandless, he said, "We will capitalize on your unique experience and qualifications. I anticipate that you'll be a collaborative, articulate, well informed, and experienced leader capable of moving the wing forward."

As she addressed 124th FW's Airmen McCandless said, "We've accomplished nine aircraft conversions here, our Airmen have retrained and quickly regained their combat mission readiness as rapidly as possible each time and they have continued to serve with distinction."

McCandless thanked her husband, Lt. Col. Chris Sheppard, of the District of Columbia Air National Guard. Sheppard, a traditional guardsman, is commander of the 121st Operations Support Squadron.

"I'm extremely proud of his deployment record to Iraq twice and to Afghanistan," she said. "I'm not only a deployer myself, but I'm also a spouse. I wait and worry just as other spouses do for their spouse to come home from combat.

"I pledge my personal best to you all," she said. "I intend to uphold the promise of 'first class or not at all.'"