President Donald J. Trump announced Monday that his choice to lead the Air Force is former New Mexico congresswoman Heather Wilson, a graduate of the Air Force Academy.
“Her distinguished military service, high level of knowledge, and success in so many different fields gives me great confidence that she will lead our nation’s Air Force with the greatest competence and integrity,” he said. “Our debt to America’s men and women in uniform is eternal. Their service is an inspiration to us all and we honor their service and sacrifice.”
Wilson said, “I will do my best, working with our men and women in the military, to strengthen American air and space power to keep the country safe.”
Shortly after the White House released the news, Sen. Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.) Tweeted out his support of Wilson:
Got to know Heather Wilson well in 2012. She’s a great choice for @USAirForce secretary & we will work together to benefit FL's AF presence.
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) January 23, 2017
Wilson served in Congress from 1998 to 2009 and ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2008 and 2012.
In the 2012 race, Wilson garnered 45 percent of the vote to Democrat Sen. Martin T. Heinrich’s 51 percent. Third party candidate Jon R. Barrie took four percent.
In 2013, she took over as the president of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.
Wilson, a native of Keene, New Hampshire, was a member of the Class of 1982, the third class at the Air Force Academy to accept women cadets. While serving as an officer, she earned her masters and doctoral degrees as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.
Wilson did not attend flight school before leaving the Air Force as a captain because of her studies at Oxford. But the daughter and granddaughter of pilots is an instrument-rated private pilot.
If confirmed, Wilson would be the fourth female to lead the Air Force as secretary, and upon succeeding Acting Secretary Lisa S. Disbrow and Secretary Deborah Lee James, she would be the third female secretary in a row.