SOUTH EASTON — Students in Southeastern’s aviation classes recently learned about the many different paths to becoming an Air Force pilot during a visit by Maj. Gen. Jeannie M. Leavitt, who has a storied career as the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot.
Maj. Gen. Leavitt and several other Air Force personnel recently visited Steve Kelley’s aviation classes. Maj. Gen. Leavitt is the Department of the Air Force Chief of Safety and Commander of the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
The general entered the Air Force in 1992 after earning her bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas and her master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University.
She has served in a variety of flying, staff and command assignments, and has commanded at the flight, squadron and wing level. She is a graduate and former instructor of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School and is a command pilot with more than 3,000 hours. Her operational experiences include Operations Southern Watch, Northern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Maj. Gen. Leavitt’s full bio can be found here.
During her visit, Maj. Gen. Leavitt talked about her path to the Air Force and about finding one’s own path. She explained that as you work to find your path, you need to find your passion, which will help to give you a purpose. As you begin to pursue your purpose, you will need to have perseverance and the right attitude to get past any obstacles before you will achieve success.
She talked to the students about the importance of having grit, “Sometimes life is going to knock you down – it happens to all of us. The question is, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ You need to be unwilling to stay down. Every time you get knocked down, you need to get back up, dust yourself off and try again.”
Maj. Gen. Leavitt also discussed her training, aircrafts she has flown, and her journey becoming the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot. She also talked about diversity in the Air Force and the importance of having people of different backgrounds and life experiences, as well as the Air Force’s core values: Integrity, Service and Excellence.
Several other Air Force personnel accompanied Maj. Gen. Leavitt and spoke to students about their own paths to the Air Force.
Students also learned about flight crew and pilot opportunities, including the Air Force ROTC and Air Force Academy, and the Aim High Flight Academy, which is a diversity initiative that allows high school students to attend a three-week summer flight training program and get 15 hours of flight time. The Aim High Flight Academy aims to help diverse candidates pursue flight crew positions by helping to alleviate barriers like cost and pre-college exposure to flight training.
Following the presentation, students asked questions and talked one-on-one with the Air Force personnel. Southeastern students also demonstrated the school’s on-site flight simulators for the speakers and tested out the Air Force’s virtual reality technology, which was available to students during the visit.
“This was an excellent chance for our students who may be interested in pursuing aviation to learn about the Air Force and the opportunities available to them,” Kelley said. “Maj. Gen. Leavitt has an inspiring story and offered valuable advice to our students. We thank her and her team for coming to speak with our students and for sharing their stories.”