Pfeifer breaks barrier as newest colonel

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Vicky Spesard
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Lt. Col. Kathryn Pfeifer, director of staff for Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard, was promoted to the rank of colonel during a ceremony here Saturday, breaking a symbolic barrier in the process.

"This is a great day for Col. Pfeifer and her family, but this is a historic day for the Kentucky National Guard and the Kentucky Air National Guard," explained Kentucky's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini, who officiated the ceremony. "She is the first female line officer to obtain the rank of colonel in the history of the Kentucky National Guard."

Line officers are authorized to command a war-fighting force, as opposed to officers who normally exercise authority in a non-combat specialty field such as the medical or chaplaincy corps.

"I know our organization is in good hands as we go forward with your kind of leadership," Tonini continued. "I truly believe that good things happen to good people. I know you are one of those, and I genuinely appreciate all that you have done."

Upon hearing the orders for promotion, Tonini joined Pfeifer's husband to pin silver eagles to her uniform epaulets, a time-honored tradition. Pfeifer's two children assisted in the ceremony as well, replacing the lieutenant colonel's rank on her dress uniform shirt with silver colonel's eagles.

After taking the oath of office, Pfeifer took a few minutes to thank her family and friends, and address those gathered to celebrate her promotion.

"It is an honor and a privilege for me to stand here today, not because of the historical significance of being the first female line officer, but primarily because of the support I've received along the way," Pfeifer said.

"The mentors in your life have such a huge influence on you as a young officer and all the way through, even to us who are old folks," she continued. "The enlisted corps, you are key and instrumental in guiding us, teaching us how the enlisted corps works, keeping us out of trouble, and we have learned the ways of how to become a successful officer. Senior officers, you help us drive our careers, so without you, many of us would never be here.

"Whether you are receiving feedback as a colonel, an airman or somewhere in between, pick out the good tidbits along the way and absorb them to make yourself become a better officer."

In her current role, Pfeifer advises and assists the chief of staff for Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard, in the formulation of plans, policies and procedures, and provides coordination and staff assistance during state emergencies when the Air Guard is called to active duty. Pfeifer also reviews projected personnel policy changes for impact on existing plans and programs, and recommends action.

Pfeifer graduated as a mechanical engineer from North Carolina State University and received her commission through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1988. She began her military career in the missile maintenance field troubleshooting technical issues with Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and launch facilities.

After four years, she transitioned to civil engineering, filling various positions at different active-duty and Air National Guard wings, both in the United States and overseas for the next 14 years.

In 2000, after a two-year break in service, she joined the Kentucky Air National Guard. Three years later, she was mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and spent a tour of duty at Sather Air Base, Iraq, supporting civil engineer operations.

Following that, Pfeifer became 123rd Airlift Wing Inspector General here. She followed the IG assignment by standing up the newly formed 123rd Force Support Squadron, merging the missions of the Military Personnel Flight and Services Flight under one umbrella.

Pfeifer then moved to Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard. Prior to assuming her current position, she served as the director of personnel.

"We continue to lean forward to recognize and promote our best service members, regardless of gender or family of origin, who earn their promotions through their excellent work and dedication," Tonini said. "Kathy is a stellar officer who exhibits the qualities and character we expect from our colonels."