First female fighter pilot to mark opening of Air Force recruiting office on St. Croix
By A.J. RAO | The Virgin Islands Daily News | Published: April 6, 2019
ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands (Tribune News Service) — Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, the first female combat pilot in the Air Force, will help celebrate the opening of an active duty Air Force recruiting office on St. Croix.
Leavitt, who now serves as the commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service, will join a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the office, located at Sunny Isle Shopping Center, on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
The office will be the first Air Force recruiting center in the territory since 2008, when it was previously located on St. Thomas.
Tech. Sgt. Shayne Vanderkuyl, Air Force recruiter in the Virgin Islands, said the old office, like others across the country, was shuttered due to funding cutbacks.
The following years had Virgin Islanders, who were interested in the Air Force, corresponding with recruiters in Puerto Rico, which, according to Vanderkuyl, was not very effective.
Moreover, recruiters became overwhelmed in certain areas, and attempts by the Air Force to reopen offices soon became more of a priority.
“They decided to ramp up recruiting again and looked at reopening offices that were closed previously — and this was one that they wanted to reopen,” he said. “By having someone here to service St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John, this will create a better customer service experience for the applicant and [ensure] the recruiter is not overloaded.”
Vanderkuyl said Leavitt’s presence at Sunday’s opening is a testament to the Air Force’s commitment to having people join the Air Force from all over the world and help the military remain diverse.
“Being that she’s the head of the recruiting office and they’re opening up the office at the most eastern part of the U.S. — it was definitely something for her to come to these outlying areas and visit the Virgin Islands,” Vanderkuyl said.
Leavitt entered the Air Force in 1992 and later served in a variety of flying, staff and command assignments. She is a graduate and former instructor of the Air Force Weapons School and a command pilot with more than 3,000 flight hours. Her operational experiences include operations Southern Watch, Northern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.