Wolfenbarger turned challenges into opportunities during tenure

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — After 35 years of service and three years at the helm of Air Force Materiel Command, Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger relinquished command and retired following a ceremony on June 8.

Three weeks after she assumed command of AFMC in June 2012, Wolfenbarger said, “We have a responsibility to make our institution — our system — better so the people who come along after us can benefit from improvements to the way we accomplish our mission.”

In looking at the changes to AFMC during her tenure, it is clear Wolfenbarger lived up to that responsibility.

“The AFMC reorganization from 12 centers to five centers was a major part of the Air Force’s response to the Department of Defense budget challenges,” the general said. “By consolidating overhead, we improved the way AFMC accomplishes our diverse mission, and that provides better support to the warfighter. Establishing a single center with a single commander for each primary mission has enabled us to standardize and continuously improve business processes across a mission enterprise, focused on achieving the art of the possible.”

Most recently, the Air Force established AFMC’s sixth and newest center, the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, which was formally activated on May 5, 2015.

“We determined there was merit in centralizing installation management functions that were previously executed in a decentralized manner across all of the major commands. Centralizing allowed us to realize synergies and reduce resourcing,” said Wolfenbarger. “This was the biggest strategic initiative that was put on the table in response to the Secretary of Defense’s mandate to reduce management headquarters by 20 percent. It allows us to provide more effective and efficient installation and expeditionary combat support capabilities to commanders and mission partners.”

Making the most out of opportunity is not new for the general. Indeed, her entire career has been shaped by leveraging opportunities, often amid challenges — from the time she entered the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1976 until she became the first female four-star general in the Air Force.

“I never anticipated that my career would include a promotion to brigadier general, much less this opportunity to serve at the highest rank in our Air Force,” Wolfenbarger said. “I was a member of the Academy’s first class of female cadets, and my experience there really provided me with a foundation I’ve relied on throughout my career. The Academy put me in situations that stretched me mentally, physically, emotionally and academically. I came out on the other side of those experiences knowing I am far more capable than I ever thought I could be. That knowledge gave me a belief in myself that I have relied on ever since.”

After graduation, Wolfenbarger began her career in acquisition as an engineer at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. She held several positions in the F-22 System Program Office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and served as the F-22 Lead Program Element Monitor at the Pentagon. Later, the general was the B-2 System Program Director for the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson. She also commanded ASC’s C-17 Systems Group, Mobility Systems Wing.

She was the Service’s Director of the Air Force Acquisition Center of Excellence at the Pentagon, then served as Director of the Headquarters AFMC Intelligence and Requirements Directorate. She served as AFMC vice commander from December 2009 to September 2011. Prior to her assignment as AFMC commander, Wolfenbarger was the Military Deputy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition at the Pentagon.

“I have spent my entire career working hard and doing the very best I could at every job my Air Force gave me,” the general said. “That’s the career advice I would give any Airman today: Work hard and do your very best in every job that you are given. Couple that with bringing a positive attitude with you to work every day. That’s my simple recipe for success.”

Looking forward, Wolfenbarger says she has mixed emotions. While she is excited about what comes next, she has truly enjoyed her time in service.

“It has been an absolute privilege to serve as commander of the very command I grew up in,” she said. “I am so proud of our Airmen — both in AFMC and across our United States Air Force — and the remarkable work they do every day. I am honored to have served alongside these heroes for the past three and a half decades.”

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