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Keesler welcomes new training wing commander

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Holly Cook
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

Col. Heather W. Blackwell assumed command of the 81st Training Wing from outgoing commander Col. Debra A. Lovette, during a change of command ceremony officiated by Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, Second Air Force commander, here, May 16.

Lovette’s tenure at Keesler began in May 2017 and she was crucial to several major breakthroughs that brought positive change to Keesler and the local community.

“In the last two years since I took command, there have been a few significant changes here, none of which could have been done with just the wing involvement,” said Lovette. “One of them is the ground breaking for our Division Street gate, which is a joint project between the community and the base that has been several years in the making. We’ve also been incorporating numerous innovative ways to train our Airmen on everything they need to become operational Airmen wherever they are in the world.”

Lovette has made many memories since arriving to Keesler, while helping to provide a better quality of life for military members, dependents and retirees on the Gulf Coast. Milestones like the Defense Health Agency transition at Keesler Medical Center and the $10 million expansion for cyber training at the 333rd Training Squadron made this assignment one she won’t forget.

At her first wing-level command position, Lovette had the opportunity to lead more than 12,000 personnel and award initial and advanced skills qualifications to more than 58,000 military, civilian and international students. She enabled her team to train, develop and inspire students in 37 different career fields while managing the Air Force’s second largest technical training wing.

Lovette’s next assignment will be at U.S. Space Command.

Her time at Keesler has come to an end, but the outgoing dragon lead leaves behind one piece of advice for her Airmen.

“Don’t be afraid to fail, to step out and try something that may be initially quite uncomfortable and scary,” said Lovette. “See what happens and learn from it. Just keep pressing forward. And never forget, we are better together.”

The event was held on the traditional parade field where Leahy spoke of the dedication Lovette has to the Airmen of Keesler.

“The fact that the 81st Training Wing has lead change and made a difference in the Air Force over the last two years might just be the understatement of the century,” said Leahy. “That [success] is absolutely and unequivocally related to the leadership of Col. Debra Lovette.”

Blackwell is the newest commander to lead the Keesler Dragons and is ready to bring her experience as a Cyberspace Operations Group commander and her knowledge as the director of legislative affairs for U.S. Cyber Command to Keesler.

“When I look at my family I see three generations of teachers and professors,” said Blackwell. “Teaching and education is in our blood, which is why it’s so exciting for me to be a part of the team here at Keesler, whose mission it is to inspire and train Airmen across the spectrum of warfighting.”