The new Air Force Academy commandant may have the school’s 4,000 cadets aiming higher: orbit.
Brig. Gen. Michele Edmondson took the job atop the cadet wing Friday after leaving a post as the White House’s top expert on space policy. She helped the Trump administration craft a new aggressive stance on space, with a warfighting command and a push for a separate satellite service.
“The value of space has been recognized at every level from President Trump down,” Edmondson said after the ceremony installing her in her new job.
She replaces Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin, who was ousted from her post amid an ongoing investigation. The nature of allegations against Goodwin haven’t been revealed, but she was removed from her job by academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria just weeks before she was supposed to head to the Pentagon.
Removing a general from command is a rare step, and dismissing one so close to changing jobs is without precedent.
The status of the Goodwin investigation hasn’t been released and she wasn’t in attendance to hand off the job to Edmondson with a traditional change of command. Instead, Edmondson “assumed” the vacant office.
A 26-year veteran who entered the Air Force after graduation from the University of Florida, Edmondson was seen as an officer in high demand. The academy had to fight to get her.
But that didn’t mean Edmonson came to the commandant job with an inflated ego.
“I could not be more humbled by the trust you have placed in me,” Edmondson told Silveria during the Friday ceremony.
While she’s best known for is her rocket scientist brain, Edmondson is also one of the Air Force’s most experienced trainers. She’s run units from boot camp at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to a job atop the Air Force’s technical training programs at Keesler Air Force Base.
“Your outstanding background and reputation precedes you,” Silveria told her.
Silveria charged Edmondson with boosting the cadet training program. The commandant is responsible for cadet life outside the classroom, with a core task of preparing them to wear lieutenant’s bars.
Programs from basic training to sexual assault prevention will be overseen by Edmondson.
The commandant told cadets that she expects them to toe the line.
“Together we will set high expectations and standards and we will hold each other accountable,” she said.
Those high standards run in Edmondson’s blood. The daughter of an Air Force colonel, the mother of two is the sister of a Navy commander.
The general said she will spend her early weeks at the academy as a student rather than a teacher. She wants to walk the halls and find out what makes the place work before initiating changes.
But one thing she wants from her first day is a focus on caring for cadets.
“Make no mistake,” she said. “Our people are our most precious and valuable resource and I am committed to your success.”