Col. Amy Holbeck will become the Georgia Air National Guard’s first female wing commander Sunday when she takes charge of a unit at Robins Air Force Base that has helped fight the Islamic State.
Now vice commander of the 116th Air Control Wing, Holbeck, 45, of Macon, will replace Col. Ato Crumbly as a commander responsible for more than 1,450 airmen.
Those airmen are part a blended team of Georgia Guard and active duty units that operate the E-8C Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System. Also called JSTARS, the fleet of planes has flown intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Raised in Cleveland, Tenn., Holbeck credits her father, Dan Waters, a retired Coca-Cola line supervisor for her success. And, she said, she “thanks God daily for the opportunities, people and mentors he has put in my life to get me to this point.”
“My dad always taught me to just to do the best job I can at whatever job I am currently doing,” she said. “I had some great leaders along the way who put me in positions that challenged me and really set me up to become a commander and then now a wing commander.”
A change of command ceremony for Holbeck is planned for Sunday at the Museum of Aviation at Robins.
Holbeck said being a woman has never hindered her career in the military, which spans more than two decades. She enlisted in the Air Force in 1997, becoming a guidance and control systems specialist stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. Three years later, she became an officer and was stationed at Robins as an air battle manager on an E-8C. In 2008, she moved to the Air National Guard and was promoted as vice wing commander in September.
This won’t be the first time the Georgia Guard has celebrated a first in its ranks. In 2015, then-Col. Reginald Neal became the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s first black commander. Nicknamed the “Macon Volunteers,” the brigade can trace its roots to the 19th century, when it fought in the Second Seminole War, the Mexican-American War and then the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy.
Asked whether her unit will be deployed amid the tensions between the United States and Iran, Holbeck said she could not comment, citing the safety of her personnel.
“We are ready to accept any kind of task that we would receive,” she said.
As commander, she plans to focus on strengthening communication amid uncertainty surrounding the future of JSTARS. Georgia congressmen pushed the Pentagon for years to replace Robins’ aging E-8C surveillance planes with a brand-new fleet. The Pentagon has instead proposed phasing them out and replacing them with a different system at Robins.
“I just want to remind people we still have a job to do,” Holbeck said, “and we do it very well. I want to ensure that we continue to do it well.”
AJC staff writer Tamar Hallerman contributed to this report.
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