Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ceremonially swore in Heather Wilson as the 24th secretary of the Air Force at the Pentagon today.
“If we wanted to do one thing to Webster’s Unbridged Dictionary to define a patriot with no words, we could put up Heather Wilson’s picture right next to the word, and we would explain what a patriot truly is,” Mattis said. “On behalf of the entire Air Force community, on the behalf of the Department of Defense — welcome home.”
Wilson, who was administratively sworn in as secretary May 12, has more than 35 years of professional experience in a range of leadership and management roles in the military, higher education, government and private industry.
The defense secretary called Wilson well-suited to lead the Air Force and said he needs her ideas and wisdom as the Air Force begins a new chapter.
Mattis said he, Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein are committed to restoring the readiness of the force, modernizing and advancing new capabilities to meet future threats, and developing exceptional leaders to command the finest combat force in the world.
“History is not predetermined or static. History hangs on a hinge. Air supremacy is not America’s ordained right, and there are other hands pushing on history’s door,” Mattis said. “By Secretary Wilson’s leadership, by the superior service of America’s airmen, … they push in vain. … The U.S. Air Force must be better than anyone else.”
Goldfein and Wilson first served together as cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where they took the oath of office for the first time as members of the same class.
“Here we stand together again as you repeat these same sacred words,” Goldfein said. “What a journey it has been, and what a journey it will be. We follow in the footsteps of service secretaries and chiefs of the past who have put their heart and their soul into building the most combat capable and lethal Air Force the world has ever known.”
From the start, Wilson said, she will be focused on not taking air and space power for granted.
“We have got a lot of work to do under the guidance of Secretary of Defense Mattis, and with the support of the United States Congress, we will restore the readiness of the force so that we can win any fight, anytime, anywhere,” Wilson said. “We’re going to cost-effectively modernize the force and drive innovation to bring new capabilities to the service of liberty, and underpinning it all will be a commitment to people.
“Thank you to the airmen who protect the freedom we enjoy,” she continued. “You and your families represent the best of what it means to be an American.”