LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Little Rock Air Force Base is home to the 19th Airlift Wing commanded by Colonel Angela Ochoa, famously known as the first female to command the wing.
However, in a ceremony today, Col. Ochoa will turn over the reins to a new leader— Colonel Denny Davies coming from the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
We recently visited with Col. Ochoa to hear about her experience as the first female in the history of Little Rock Air Force Base to serve as its Commander.
She graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO, and received her first commission in 2001.
Her 11th assignment brought her to Arkansas in 2021, two decades after her graduation.
Col. Ochoa’s next adventure will take her to Maryland, but she said Arkansas will always have a special place in her heart.
“Arkansans are loving and generous people, and really, truly have taken in our military airmen and our families and treated them like their own. I just cannot say thank you enough for all the ways that the state of Arkansas and all the Arkansans have supported the United States military and our airmen here at Little Rock Air Force Base," she said.
Col. Ochoa was already familiar with Arkansas from previous assignments in 2007 and 2015.
It was the 2nd assignment where she and her husband, Raul, arrived as a couple but left with someone new.
“At the end of that assignment, we welcomed our first daughter into our family. That's why you know it's home because this is where she was born and we became parents and learned a lot”, Col. Ochoa described.
The Ochoas now have two young daughters who couldn't ask for a better role model.
Col. Ochoa said that she intentionally shares with her airmen that she goes to counseling to show them that their emotional needs are just as important as their physical health.
"What we ask of our airmen is a lot. We ask them to prepare themselves for combat, to prepare as a team for combat, and to be ready to put their lives on the line," she explained. "We encourage people to go get the help that you need. Be proactive about your mental health care. That is so important to me. And it's absolutely emulated all the way up to the very top of the chain of command, and I’m proud of that."
As she prepares to leave, Col. Ochoa said she's also proud of the air base community where the 10,000 members keep more than 60 C-130 aircrafts ready at a moment's notice.
With more than 2,800 flying hours of her own, she recalled the first time she sat behind the instrument panel on one of the cargo planes, nicknamed "The Herk".
“I remember taking the runway, you know, going out onto the runway for the takeoff. And it was very surreal, a very surreal moment, where I thought to myself, I can't believe they just gave me the keys to this million-dollar jet! And the trust placed in me by the six-member crew. But I knew I was prepared by the training that all happened at Little Rock Air Force Base”, she described.
Col. Ochoa and her family will be moving to Maryland where she will take over as the leader of the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews.