JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J.- —
She didn’t come from a military family, nor did she have any prior experience, but in 1990 she began her Air Force career at the Air Force Academy. It was all a culture shock but she took great pride in the fact that she was among a group of high caliber individuals, all focused on the same goal.
In the spring of 1994, the newly commissioned lieutenant started a career as an intelligence officer supporting F-16 Fighting Falcon, U-2 Dragon Lady, B-1 Lancer air frames for five years.
Now, years later, having served in several distinctive leadership and supervisory positions at the squadron, group, and wing levels, her atypical career path has landed her at Joint Base MDL.
U.S. Air Force Col. Jacqueline D. Breeden, 305th Air Mobility Wing commander is responsible for the wing’s fleet of KC-10 Extender and C-17 Globemaster III aircrafts and providing global mobility worldwide through aerial refueling and air land capabilities and taking care of the thousands of Airmen in the wing.
It was during her time in the intelligence career field that she discovered what her Air Force dream job was.
“[I] had a fantastic time [as intel], deployed and got to travel and I really enjoyed it,” reminisced Breeden. “But [after] supporting air crew, I wanted to have that office with a view.”
The chance for her to apply for pilot training arose, and she was selected. It was the beginning of a whole new career as a C-5 Galaxy pilot.
“I wouldn’t change a thing about my path, but it was very nonstandard how I got here,” said Breeden. “I really enjoy the opportunity to engage with the Airmen who are looking to do something new or different or pursue something nonstandard, and I’ve had that experience to share.”
Her unique background and career opportunities gave her new insights to share that she may not have gained otherwise. The experiences made her grow and taught her about being an effective leader.
Breeden explained that her most valuable lessons came from working directly with the enlisted force, where she learned how to not just lead herself, but to lead others.
“The opportunity to work in that capacity and to work closely arm-in-arm with the sharp young Airmen and learn from senior NCOs, you don’t necessarily get the opportunity to do that when you go rated; but I did. That five-year experience working with those folks more closely better prepared me to lead them and made me a little bit more self-aware.”
Now Breeden says she is enthusiastic to take on the responsibility as the new 305th AMW commander and to get to know the “Can Do” Airmen she has heard so much about.
“I had the opportunity to be motivated by folks who had been in the 305th before. The last three commanders of the air mobility wing I also know, and have either worked with or worked for in the past,” said Breeden. “I was able to get their words of wisdom about the position, the culture of the wing and the partner ships of the local community so that was comforting and helped framed things for me coming in, [so] I knew what I was getting into and what a fantastic wing that the Can Do wing is.”
Breeden had the opportunity to speak with previous `Can Do’ leadership which gave her a better understanding of the new wing and what to expect taking on her new role as commander.
“Listening: It’s sometimes hard to do, especially when you have a lot of responsibility and a lot of different duties, responsibilities and tasks that require your attention,” said Breeden. “But you have to listen to [those] that you are leading; you need to do that so that they are invested in the process and invested in the decisions that you make.”
Since taking command early this summer Breeden has already had a few opportunities to get to know some of the Airmen and to get hands-on experience and is now looking forward to getting to know the wing more.
“I think I am most excited about getting out there and doing the jobs, probably with a lot of supervision, that the rest of the folks do to make the mission happen here,” said Breeden. “I’ve seen things very one-sided, having been on the flight deck, and while I appreciate and know that there is a lot that goes on to get to that point, my point of reference and true appreciation for what that entails, I’m looking forward to opportunities to engage with the team to learn from them and to see that firsthand.”
The next step will be to get out there and see what the crews are dealing with and hear about what issues and concerns they might be having concerning their specialties.
Overall, Col. Breeden is getting familiar with the wing and her priority is making sure the Airman are taken care of so that they can be mission ready at all times.
“What we do is inherently dangerous but tremendously important,” said Breeden. “But at the end of the day if we aren’t taking care of the people, the mission doesn’t happen. We are here because of the mission, but we need our people to be able to do it successfully, so ‘be safe, and make smart choices,’ I think that would be my tag line for our team.”