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62nd's first female commander

Sonkiss to lead McChord wing

Air Force Col. Rebecca Sonkiss during a 2016 Thanksgiving Day troop visit at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Photo credit: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. First Class Jim Greenhill

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In U.S. military history, some milestones are achieved quietly and with little fanfare, especially when it comes to gender equality. Some military units even consider it a true sign of social progress when notable achievements in gender equality, such as women being appointed to high-ranking positions or stepping into duty positions previously closed to them, occur with little to no ceremony. At Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), a moment like this is on the cusp of happening as Col. Rebecca Sonkiss prepares to take command of the U.S. Air Force 62nd Airlift Wing (AW) July 14.

Col. Sonkiss will be the first woman in history to command the 62nd AW. And while a woman stepping into the prestigious command position is by no means an insignificant occurrence, "the more important aspect is the fact that Col. Sonkiss is a combat proven leader," said Lt. Gen. Samuel D. Cox, commander of the 18th Air Force (AF). "From her time as an Air Force Academy cadet on the Wings of the Blue parachute competition team, to her current assignment as the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Vice Commander, Col. Sonkiss has demonstrated exceptional performance. We are excited to see her follow in the footsteps of a long line of outstanding commanders within the 62nd AW."

When Col. Sonkiss takes command of the 62nd AW, she'll fall under the command of Lt. Gen. Cox and the 18th AF, along with 10 other air and airlift wings. Currently, she is the vice commander of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW) at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, where she's been executing combat operations and providing support to U.S. and Coalition forces for 12 months. She also previously deployed overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. In total, she has 23 years of military experience.

"Col. Sonkiss' career has taken her all over the world. Her wealth of experience includes a double-digit number of duty stations," Lt. Gen. Cox continued. "She has recent, first-hand knowledge of what our airmen experience when they head into harm's way. That leadership experience and familiarity with the local community will be invaluable and help the wing and Team McChord succeed."

Earlier this May, Col. Sonkiss completed her final flight at Bagram Airfield. With extensive experience as a C-17 instructor pilot and almost 4,200 hours of flight time, Col. Sonkiss is uniquely qualified to serve as the 62nd AW commander. "As with all our wing commanders, she was selected for the 62nd AW based on a proven record of performance," explained Lt. Gen. Cox. "We look forward to her carrying on the standard of excellence that is the hallmark of the 62nd AW." Originally from White Lake, Michigan, Col. Sonkiss holds a master's degree from the National Defense Intelligence College out of Washington, D.C.

"Col. Sonkiss has embraced the challenge of leadership, and taking command of the 62nd AW is another step in the Air Force's process of growing and developing leaders. The leadership expertise she already has will help the wing succeed, and the unique experience she'll gain at JBLM will benefit the joint force moving forward," Lt. Gen. Cox concluded. 

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