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Alabama Air National Guard promotes first female brigadier general

MONTGOMERY – Colonel Tara D. McKennie of the 187th Fighter Wing was promoted to brigadier general during a pinning ceremony at Montgomery’s Dannelly Field Saturday, becoming the first female brigadier general in the Alabama Air National Guard.

Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey presided over the historic event, pinning the rank of brigadier general on the shoulders of McKennie’s service coat, alongside McKennie’s daughter. Coworkers of her civilian occupation, Radiology Partners, completed the pinning ceremony, placing rank insignia on McKennie’s dress blouse.

McKennie enlisted in the Air Force in 1989 as an airman basic, and served six years on active duty. She earned a commission as a second lieutenant through the Army’s Officer Candidate School in 1999. McKennie transferred to the Air National Guard in 2002 and has served in the 187th Medical Group since 2015.

“Each time we come together to celebrate a newly promoted Airman, we honor a military tradition that dates back to 1845,” said McKennie. “Promotion ceremonies were mostly held on the battlefield. Though not on a battlefield, getting here has required navigation of social and professional landmines. Surviving and getting here to this moment fills me with humility, pride, and gratitude for the distinction to serve as a general officer.”

McKennie made history on two fronts Saturday: she became the first female brigadier general in the Alabama Air National Guard and the first Black female brigadier general in either component of the Alabama National Guard.

“Since the inception of the Alabama National Guard, none of the general officers have looked like me,” McKennie said. “This is one of the many reasons that I feel proud, but not special. It is not lost on me that I am walking the path paved by those before me.”
McKennie continued, “My hope is that my journey—my story—will become the norm, not an anomaly that warrants special recognition. I am honored to be the first, but nothing would make me prouder than knowing I will not be the last.”

In her civilian life, McKennie is the vice president of Culture and Leadership Development at Radiology Partners, a national physician practice, supporting and leading operations for more than 5,000 employees. In uniform, she now serves as the chief of staff of the Alabama Air National Guard.

“She’s a true professional,” said Alabama National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon, “and that’s why she was selected for the job. She excels in her personal professional career and in her military career and that’s a great combination.”

Gordon added that she believes McKennie’s selection will be a boon for all Guardsmen in the state and her progressive vision for a stronger, faster, more unified force will be felt quickly.

“I had a long meeting with Brig. Gen. McKennie about my vision for moving the Alabama National Guard forward and what we could do and how we could do it, and it was amazing how closely our thought processes synced,” Gordon said. “I don’t have to convince her of my vision because she’s already got that same vision: to take care of Airmen, to give them the opportunities they need and to move everybody forward. I’m excited about what the future has to offer the Alabama Air National Guard under the leadership of Brig. Gen. McKennie and I’m excited to have her as part of our leadership team.”

McKennie is a Chicago native, and holds Bachelor of Science degrees in both Radiologic Science and Healthcare Management from Southern Illinois University, a Master of Business Administration degree from Bellarmine University, and a Master of Strategic Studies degree from Air War College. She was awarded and recognized as one of 2021’s 10 “Most Influential Minority Executives in Healthcare” by industry publication Fierce Healthcare.

(Courtesy of Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)

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