NEWS | June 17, 2022

Decker promoted to brigadier general as KYANG chief of staff

By Dale Greer, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Mary S. Decker, chief of staff for Joint Force Headquarters—Air, Kentucky National Guard, was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in a ceremony here Saturday.

The adjutant general of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Army Maj. Gen. Haldane B. Lamberton, praised Decker for her dedication and commitment to excellence, noting that she first joined the Air Force in 1987 as an Airman Basic—the lowest possible grade—before rising through the ranks with steadily increasing levels of responsibility and leadership.

“We’re blessed here in the Kentucky National Guard,” Lamberton told an audience of nearly 100 family, friends and colleagues who gathered for the ceremony, held beside a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft in the Maintenance Hangar at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base. “We’ve got leaders in the NCOs and the warrant officers and the officers, but it’s a pyramid-type organization. The folks who move up to the senior leadership positions—they’re folks who have special skills or abilities or a level of dedication that not everybody has.

“So you think of that relative to Mary’s situation: She’s got all these colonels who are sort of standing behind her, and she was the one who got selected to become Brigadier General Decker. This really is a very special event.”

Decker expressed her appreciation to Lamberton, her family and her coworkers for their support through the years.

“I’m very honored and grateful that you selected me to serve as your next chief of staff,” Decker told Lamberton. “I’m looking forward to being part of your leadership team to help shape the future of the Kentucky Air National Guard.

“When I joined the air force in 1987 as an airman basic, I never dreamed I would be standing here today in front of you as a brigadier general. However, I would not be standing here today if it wasn't for leaders who believed in me and leaders who challenged me over my career.

“In closing, I just want to share some advice for our future leaders that are in the back. The advice I have is: Don't settle; pursue your goals. Find a mentor, fill your blocks and complete your education. More opportunities are available. If, by chance, the door closes, look for that window. Bottom line: Never give up on your dreams.”

Decker enlisted in the active-duty Air Force in 1987 and was assigned to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, where she served as a security forces specialist. She left active duty to join the Kentucky Air Guard in 1991, working in security forces and services before earning her commission in 2001 from the Air National Guard Academy of Military Science in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Over the course of the past 35 years, Decker has held numerous leadership and staff positions at the wing, state and national levels. She served as the Security Forces programmer and comptroller at the Air National Guard Readiness Center; and has commanded units at the flight, squadron and group levels.

As a Security Forces commander, Decker deployed to Louisiana in support of Hurricane Katrina recovery operations and to Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, as chief of Force Protection in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In her role as 192nd Support Squadron Commander, she was responsible for civil engineering, logistics readiness, communications, force support, and recruiting and retention in support of the Virginia Air National Guard mission.

After graduating National Defense University’s Eisenhower School in 2017, Decker served as the senior executive officer to the director of the Air National Guard. Prior to that position, she served as Mission Support Group commander at the 123rd Airlift Wing.

Decker now follows in the footsteps of Maj. Gen. Verna D. Fairchild, a nurse who became the first woman to serve as a general officer in the Kentucky Air National Guard, and the nation’s first female assistant adjutant general for Air, a post she held from 1993 to 1999. Fairchild went on to serve for more than three years as assistant to the director of the Air National Guard for support readiness.

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