JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. – In 1985, newly commissioned 2nd Lt. Dawne L. Deskins arrived at her first duty station, McChord Air Force Base, ready to take on the job of an air battle manager. Initially, Deskins joined the Air Force for the education benefits and intended to only serve her four-year commitment. But unique career opportunities, excellent mentorship, and the right timing led Deskins on a different path.
Nearly four decades later, Maj. Gen. Deskins is making history by becoming the first non-pilot and first female to serve as the deputy director of the Air National Guard.
Throughout her seasoned military career, Deskins has held numerous leadership positions at multiple command levels. She believes each of these roles taught her a different lesson that, ultimately, brought her to where she is today.
The first 10 years of Deskins' Air Force career were with the active-duty component where she learned to lead as a weapons director, instructor, and more. In 1995, Deskins transitioned to the Air National Guard and joined the Eastern Air Defense Sector in Rome, New York. Over the next 19 years, Deskins served as a flight, mission crew, and vice commander, culminating her NY ANG career as the first female EADS commander.
"As I began to come up on my 30-year mandatory separation date, my plan was to retire as the commander," said Deskins. "Then, the Air National Guard director at the time offered me the opportunity to come out to Washington, D.C., to work the Air National Guard's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program and promote to one star. That was in 2014."
Deskins continued to climb the ranks of nation-level leadership, taking on roles such as the U.S. European Command's deputy director of partnering, security cooperation and missile defense, the National Guard Bureau's director of manpower and personnel, and becoming the first non-pilot to serve as the ANG's director of air, space and cyber operations.
As the first female DDANG, Deskins knows that her rise in the ranks resonates with servicewomen force-wide.
"Early on in my career, I remember just wanting to be judged on my abilities, my experience, and how well I did my job. I felt that my gender should be irrelevant," said Deskins. "As I've gotten more rank, I've learned the importance of highlighting that I'm a woman in leadership. Not because of me personally, but so that other women know that this is an opportunity they can attain. They can achieve this too."
Deskins' selection as the first non-pilot and first female DDANG introduces a new era of leadership diversity for the Air National Guard.
"Look at the diversity of our force; we have Airmen from all backgrounds," said Deskins. "If we only build teams with the same viewpoints, we will have blind spots. We make our best decisions when we bring together people that have different ideas. Because when we leverage our diversity, we get to better solutions every single time."
For the next four years, Deskins will assist ANG Director Lt. Gen. Michael Loh on formulating, developing and coordinating all policies, plans and programs affecting more than 107,700 Airmen and civilians across the Air National Guard. While serving as the DDANG, Deskins vows to continue her personal mission of advocating for diversity, so that all Airmen everywhere can also dare to aim high.