BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - A new commander is now in charge of the 81st Training Wing at Keesler Air Force Base.
Col. Heather Blackwell officially took over from commander Col. Debra Lovette Thursday morning during a change of command ceremony.
“It’s an amazing honor to be here today. To watch those airmen go across that parade field, I hope their parents are watching their sons and daughters because they are amazing” Blackwell said.
The 81st Training Wing is the Air Force’s second largest training wing. It is responsible for training more than 28,000 students annually in 400 courses covering 37 different career fields. In its status as a lead joint training installation, Keesler trains not only Air Force, but Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and other military and civilian federal agency personnel.
That reputation for training so many service members will suit Blackwell. During her opening address, she mentioned that she comes from a family with three generations of educators and professors. She is proud to be able to continue that lineage in the capacity of wing commander.
“To educate, train, and inspire the airmen of the future. What an amazing opportunity that is, and that’s a big honor for me,” Blackwell said.
Outgoing wing commander Lovette said she was humbled to join the family at Keesler two years ago. Those sincere words are just as true today as they were then.
“My intent was to empower you, to enable you, and to support you to do the mission, to take risks, and to lead without fear and move the ball,” Lovette said.
She let the airmen on the base know that they are valued, they are family, and they are always “better together.” Lovette is going to work in a new role with the Air Force Space Command in Colorado.
Blackwell, a Cyberspace Operations Officer, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1997 and over a 22-year span, she has served in a variety of positions, including agency chief roles, squadron and group commands, executive-level and Air Staff positions.
Additionally, Blackwell has served as a National Security Fellow in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Prior to her assignment at Keesler, Blackwell served as the director of legislative affairs for the U.S. Cyber Command at Fort George Meade, Maryland.