SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) —
Sept. 23 may have marked the close of Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt‘s distinguished career, but the legacy she’s crafted and the lives she’s influenced will undoubtedly resonate for generations, U.S. Transportation Command‘s top general said during Leavitt’s retirement ceremony.
Officiating the event, USTRANSCOM Commander Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost recounted the hurdles and triumphs that defined Leavitt’s storied 31-year journey. From being the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot to being the first woman to command the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
Leavitt’s tale is etched with many “firsts,” yet beyond the accolades and achievements, what truly propelled her was her character, Van Ovost said.
“As her character was being shaped in those early years,” Van Ovost continued. “She had every opportunity to choose an easy path. To take roads well-traveled, but that’s not who she is.”
From her early aspirations in aerospace engineering to confronting policies that once barred women from combat-coded fighter aircraft roles, Leavitt’s resolve knew no bounds. With the unwavering support of her parents, she overcame challenges and pioneered new paths.
However, recalling the obstacles faced by women in combat roles in the early nineties, Van Ovost emphasized that policy change alone was insufficient. Acceptance and recognition were battles unto themselves, and Leavitt was at the forefront of these transformative times.
To help reshape misguided perceptions, Leavitt would venture to Hollywood, where she’d work with Disney on the captain movie project. This opportunity would give Leavitt a stage to tell her Air Force story and provide a better representation and window into what a lifetime of service looked like.
“[Jeannie] had to cope with a constant demand to be in the spotlight, because of her many firsts, something that’s not really representative of who Jeannie is,” Van Ovost said. “She much prefers to stand back, behind the scenes to guide and mentor. To take care of the people and the mission – [that’s] the true purpose behind her continued dedication to service.”
Leavitt’s aspirations were never solely for herself, but about lifting an entire community. And through her tenacity and resilience, Leavitt laid the foundation for future generations to tread.
“On behalf of all of those who journeyed beside and behind you, thank you for having the courageous character necessary to pave new roads for others to follow,” Van Ovost said.