The first openly gay general at the Air Force Academy has been removed as commandant of cadets, but leaders were mum Monday on the exact cause of the apparent firing.
Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin, who led military training at the academy since 2017, was removed from her role as commandant amid an investigation, the school confirmed.
“Effective immediately, Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin is no longer performing her duties as the commandant of cadets pending the results of an ongoing investigation,” the academy said in an email to The Gazette. “We cannot provide additional information on the investigation at this time.”
It’s an extremely rare move, making her the first academy commandant relieved of command since 2003, when a commandant was fired for comments that suggested a cadet invited sexual assault. Goodwin had only about a month left at the academy before a planned move to a Pentagon job.
Her replacement, Brig. Gen. Michele Edmondson, was expected to take over shortly after the school’s May 30 graduation.
The academy likely will fill in some details Wednesday as leaders address a meeting of the Board of Visitors, the school’s civilian oversight board. They will at least need to explain the absence of Goodwin, who is scheduled to address a morning session of that board meeting in Polaris Hall on the campus.
Goodwin could only be removed from command by her boss, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, the school’s superintendent.
According to Air Force regulations, Silveria also had to inform his boss, Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein.
Silveria was at the Pentagon late last week for a series of meetings with top Air Force brass. It’s unclear if those meetings involved discussion of Goodwin’s departure.
Goodwin, a former B-2 bomber pilot who moved to the school with her wife and children, was praised by some for a tough new set of discipline polices that made cadets toe the line. She also faced criticism for her stormy relationship with subordinates and colleagues, a few of whom referred to her with the imperial nickname “duchess,” the general’s callsign from flying days. Several academy officers, requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the case, said Goodwin was a caustic leader who treated those under her roughly and was easily riled.
“She’s a 4.5 star wacko,” one former academy officer said of Goodwin, with whom he served.
Several officials say a Pentagon probe by the Air Force Inspector General is ongoing to examine Goodwin’s conduct while she was in charge of the school’s 4,000 cadets and the officers and sergeants who oversee the school’s 40 cadet squadrons.
Any complaint against a general that’s worthy of inspector general scrutiny is handled at the Pentagon, which has the only branch of the investigative agency authorized to do that work.
Goodwin came to the academy after serving as the top military aide-de-camp to former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. The appointment drew criticism from some Christian groups who noted that she had hidden her sexual identity for years while serving in a military that banned gays at the time. In 2011, the Pentagon lifted its ban on open service by gays and lesbians.
Civil rights and gay rights groups met Goodwin’s appointment with applause.
During her time as commandant, Goodwin didn’t discuss her sexuality publicly. She did talk about the need for cadets to face tough training as a prelude to combat.
“I’m not going to change how we train people,” Goodwin told The Gazette in 2017. “Here’s the thing — the enemy is not forgiving.”
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx