Space wing home of four female group-level commanders

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  • 310th Space Wing Public Affairs

For the first time in researchable history, the 310th Space Wing had all female group-level commanders for the last year -- Col. Molly Spedding, 310th Mission Support Group commander, Col. Karen Slocum, 9th Combat Operations Squadron commander, Col. Elizabeth Paget, 310th Operations Group commander, and Col. Samantha Pitman, 710th Operations Group commander.

When asked how it felt to lead alongside other women, Spedding paraphrased the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“Someone asked RBG when there would be enough women in the Supreme Court,” said Spedding. “To which she responded, ‘when there are nine and it is not a point of conversation.’”

Though these are still milestones to celebrate and not yet the norm, the day-to-day operations during their tenure were par for the course.

“While I admire them and have a lot in common with them, I really don’t think it’s that different than serving with men who are professional, smart, and devoted to the mission and their country,” Slocum said. “I have learned from these great women and enjoyed the time we’ve had to collaborate.”

Despite their time together leaving a very similar impression across the board, their paths to get there were very different.

Spedding grew up in rural Amish Iowa with no military family members to speak of, while Slocum is the daughter of an Air Force bomber pilot from Kansas.

“I’ve always felt a call to serve my community in various ways, even as a child, through 4-H and school clubs,” Slocum said. “My dad seemed to enjoy his service and I was proud of him, but I initially joined for the free college. Once I started studying the Vietnam War and appreciating what my dad went through and how fortunate I was that he returned from that war, I knew it was what I had to do.”

Spedding, who is headed to her 19th assignment, said she never expected to serve this long.

“If you had asked me 25 years ago what my life would look like I wouldn’t be able to come remotely close to picking this one,” she said. “I don’t think my imagination could come up with all the amazing things I have had to do.”

Over her more than two decades of service, Spedding said she has seen a lot of great changes when it comes to how men and women interact. Early in her career she remembers being called bossy for her competence, something she knows wouldn’t have been told to her male counterparts.

“We have come a long way, and I am proud of that, but we can’t stop speaking up when things are inappropriate,” Spedding said. “At the same time, our approach does matter. We must keep working together and create safe spaces where our other-gendered colleagues can speak up, make mistakes, and ask questions.”

While the four commanders’ time together has come to an end with the PCS of Spedding, it will not easily be forgotten.

“This has been the best commander to commander relationship in my career,” Spedding said. “We had a hell of a lot of fun because they are three incredible people.”

As Women’s History Month also ends, the opportunity to reflect on their tenure and the future was not lost.

“It’s a time for realizing how much I still have yet to learn from many amazing women, appreciating how unique each one of them is, and honoring their contributions,” Slocum said.