LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — For the first time in the history of Little Rock Air Force Base, the highest position of command belongs to a woman, Col. Angela Ochoa.
Col. Angela Ochoa the 19th Airlift Wing Commander at LRAFB said her dreams are coming true with her new role, but that doesn’t change anything for her.
“My initial reaction was ok, so what?,” Col. Angela Ochoa, 19th Airlift Wing Commander at LRAFB. “I’m a female. That doesn’t change anything. I’m an airman first.”
But then Col. Ochoa recalled something one of her female leaders once said: It’s hard to be what you can’t see.
“So, in that sense, I hope that I can be an example and I can inspire the next generation to take on whatever challenges they want to do and seek their goals and dreams,” Col. Ochoa said, “If I can inspire just one little girl out there that decides to go out and pursue her passions, then that’s great and maybe I’ve done some good.”
Col. Ochoa added another important aspect of being the first female in this role is how it points to the power and strength of an organization that is diverse.
“Diversity is a national war-fighting imperative,” Col. Ochoa said, “It is mission-critical that we have diverse teams because at the end of the day, diverse teams make better decisions and they’re winning teams.”
When she’s not in the office, you can find Col. Ochoa in the skies.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Col. Ochoa said. “Getting to fly low-levels in Arkansas, see the beautiful scenery. It’s joyous.”
Col. Ochoa said she gets great satisfaction when she hits the flight line.
“When I get to go out on the line, prepare for a mission, go execute a mission and then come back and debrief with the team,” she said.
The C-130 pilot has deployed numerous times and said there’s not much difference being a female pilot, unless you have a baby.
“And then you happen to be a nursing mom and then you’re a pumping nursing mom who happens to fly planes,” Col. Ochoa said.
In addition to being the Wing Commander, Col. Ochoa is a wife and mom, too.
She said the key to doing it all is being present, delegating and asking for help.
In 2014, Ochoa’s husband, who was also a C-130 pilot, suffered from a cardiac arrest.
“And because of that, he has some disabilities that he works through, some challenges every, single day,” she said. “That doesn’t make it easy for me or for him, but that’s okay.”
Perhaps it’s okay because of Col. Ochoa’s fighting spirit and concern for the people she loves, as well as the base and her airmen.
“Every day here, I feel like I’m living my calling and there’s nothing better than feeling like you’re doing what you’re supposed to do and what you’ve been called to do,” she said.
Just three weeks into command, Col. Ochoa has started what she calls an “aggressive listening campaign.”
“I want to hear from everyone so that I understand what’s on our airmen’s minds, what their challenges are and how I can help them execute the mission,” she said.
Col. Ochoa said the base is in good shape. “But we do need to re-look at our mission, vision and priorities and then figure out where we want to go in the next two years,” she added.
Col. Ochoa has three key components she has laid out for base leaders.
“I am very much interested in building courageous leaders,” she said. “We’re going to continue to build mobility warriors. That is what we’re called to do, to make sure that we’re bold and ready to take action. And I want to make sure we have a connected community that we’re all from.”
Col. Ochoa said one of the challenges at LRAFB right now is the transition to a newer version of the C-130 J aircraft.
“We need to make sure that we fully complete that transition and that our aircrew and our maintainers are ready to execute with that new block upgrade,” Col. Ochoa said.
Col. Ochoa wants people to know that she cares deeply about LRAFB and its airmen.
“We have a very specific mission that we need to do, but we can’t do that if we’re not looking out for each other and taking care of each other so that is very important to me,” Col. Ochoa said.
Col. Ochoa said at the end of her command, she wants to be able to look back and say she grew leaders and made LRAFB a better place.