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Takeoff into history

First female commands 62nd Airlift Wing

Col. Rebecca Sonkiss receives command of the 62nd Airlift Wing from Lt. Gen. Giovanni Tuck, commander, 18th Air Force, as outgoing commander Col. Leonard Kosinski observes. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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History was made at McChord Field July 14, 2017.

In a change of command ceremony rich in history and steeped in tradition, Col. Rebecca Sonkiss accepted the guidon of the Air Force, thus becoming the first woman to command the 62nd Airlift Wing.

She replaces Col. Leonard Kosinski, who will assume new duties in Germany.

In acknowledging that the day was bittersweet, he thanked Joint Base Lewis-McChord personnel and local civic leaders for their hard work, service and dedication.

"The naming of a C-17, tail number 10220, ‘The Spirit of Joint Base Lewis-McChord' is symbolic of the work done here at JBLM," said Kosinski. "It links the 62nd Airlift Wing and JBLM, and it defines us as a true power projection platform."

The active-duty 62nd Airlift Wing and the Reserve 446th Airlift Wing fly 48 permanently assigned C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to provide combat airlift support.

Comprised of more than 2,300 active-duty airmen, Department of Defense civilians and contractors, the 62nd has helped Air Mobility Command in the delivery of more than seven million passengers and three million tons of cargo in support of overseas contingency operations since 9/11.

Approximately 350 civic leaders, soldiers, airmen and family members attended the event, which was held at Heritage Hill next to the flight line on a beautiful summer's day.

"The passing of a guidon, it's light in weight," observed Lt. Gen. Giovanni Tuck, commander, 18th Air Force, before Kosinski relinquished command and Sonkiss received command. "But it is heavy with responsibility."

Sonkiss is no stranger to the weight of responsibility.

A 1994 graduate of the Air Force Academy, where she was part of the Wings of the Blue parachute competition team, Sonkiss is a command pilot and a C-17 instructor pilot with almost 4,200 hours of flight time.

She is also an experienced leader.

Her most recent assignment was as vice commander of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

In her initial remarks, Sonkiss was brief.

"You make it all happen here, and usually without credit," she said. "You are empowered to lead from the front. Let's get to work." 

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