Chief Master Sgt. Kipp Stewart Makes 116th ACW History

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Roger Parsons
  • 116th Air Control Wing
2011 marked a historic moment for Chief Master Sgt. Kipp Stewart and the 116th Air Control Wing. Stewart became the first African-American female Chief Master Sergeant in the Wing's history dating back to 1942.

In 1987, as a broke college student, Stewart enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. "Initially, I needed something to do and wanted to go to school," said Stewart. Her recruiter convinced her there were very few African-American females in the Electronics field. She took him up on his advice and became a Ground Radio Equipment Maintenance Technician. Little did she know the start of her ground-breaking career would come full circle as she was promoted as the first and only current African-American female Chief in the 116th ACW.

After three years working in Electronics, Stewart, seeking a new challenge, retrained to Manpower. With renewed excitement, she began to think the Air Force could be a career. As life would have it, circumstances changed her plans.

Shortly after the birth of their first child, Stewart and her husband were both slated for remote assignments. The idea of leaving her newborn child with someone else was a decision Stewart couldn't live with. Nearing the end of her enlistment, Stewart decided a return to civilian life would be best for her family.

During her time as a civilian, the future Chief received valuable management experience as a teacher and assistant director of a pre-school. According to Stewart, "managing 3 and 4 year olds prepared me for managing adults."

Destiny steered Stewart back to the military in an unexpected way. After moving to Georgia, a friend told her about the Air National Guard. "I had never heard of the Air National Guard when I was on active duty," commented Stewart. Looking for a change, in 1999 Stewart joined the Georgia Air National Guard as a Senior Airman in the 116th Bomb Wing. Within months, the motivated Stewart obtained a fulltime position working in Personnel.

After Stewart joined the Guard, her thoughts about being a career airman were solidified. "When I came to the Guard, that's when I realized I wanted to make this a career. I loved the fact that I could serve actively and still be in a family environment and raise my children," she said. From this point forward she never looked back. Applying the principles her mother taught her about doing the absolute best job in whatever task she was given, Stewart blazed a trail to join the top 1% of all Air Force NCOs.

When Stewart learned she was going to be the first African-American female Chief in 116th history, this made the achievement sweeter. Stewart said, "My thoughts were, oh my, how overwhelming. In a way you think, I'm not worthy, but then I thought, all eyes are on me and I have to really represent. It's a huge honor and I'm humbled. I'm proud that it's 2011 and I'm the first." Since the promotion, she has received many positive comments. Fellow African-American female Guard members have shared their desire to follow in her footsteps and achieve the top enlisted rank.

According to Stewart, she didn't start out as a model airman, but had good mentors along the way to guide her to success. An early lesson she learned was the Air Force is based on the whole person concept. Your personal and professional military lives have to marry up for success.

Having achieved this level of success, Chief Stewart, the 116th Force Support Squadron Superintendent, is paying forward what she has been given. "I want to make sure that my footprint is to give people the formula for success that has helped me," shared Stewart.