PACAF Command Chief Kathleen McCool embraces historic role

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Rob Webb
  • Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

In her first interview since assuming the role of Pacific Air Forces Command Chief, Kathleen McCool reflects on the significance of her historic selection and discusses her priorities while emphasizing the importance of diversity in senior military positions.

McCool, who made history as the first female Command Chief of PACAF, assumed her duties Feb. 9, 2024. In this interview, she shared her experiences and insights on navigating this groundbreaking role.

"Any time there is a first, it matters because others can see themselves represented and then believe they can achieve it," McCool remarked. "We should celebrate ‘firsts’, but I also look forward to the day when there are no more firsts, just the right Airman at the right time, accomplishing the mission."

With over two decades of experience in the Air Force, McCool brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership to her new position. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated a commitment to taking care of Airmen; making sure they are given opportunities based on their merit and empowered with the training, experience, and equipment needed to accomplish the Air Force mission.

When asked about her priorities, she said they will align with the Pacific Air Forces commander’s priorities and one area she sees for immediate improvement is concerning standards.  "It is necessary for our Airmen to hold each other accountable to meeting standards by practicing leadership up, down and across the chain of command," McCool concluded. "Additionally, I believe we have a responsibility as leaders to engage on quality of life concerns; some are relatively easy and within the control of leaders at all levels and some are policy driven. That is where COMPACAF and I can engage and try to move through bureaucracy."

Discussing the importance of diversity in senior military positions, McCool emphasized the need for inclusivity and representation. “Regardless of gender, use your unique attributes, experience, and judgement to influence and frame the decisions that must be made," she stated. "You don’t always get to choose your stage, but you always get to choose your performance on that stage. Do your absolute best in the position you have been assigned to and never lose sight of the ‘why’ behind what we do."

As the first female Command Chief of PACAF, McCool serves as an inspiration for women in the military. Her selection sends a powerful message about the Air Force's commitment selecting the right person at the right time for senior leader positions.

“Similar to something our new CMSAF stated, I want our Airmen to know what we do is dangerous and difficult, but it matters,” McCool reflected.  “We’re going to ask our Airmen to do things that matter, for their fellow Airmen, and for our Nation because they are also expecting a lot from them and I want them to know we have complete trust and confidence in their ability to execute the mission, they are the right Airmen at the right time to engage in Great Power Competition.”

McCool is focused on making a positive impact within PACAF, as she works to promote a culture of taking care of Airmen and their families. Her dedication to excellence and her advocacy for Airmen is evident in her actions and words.

“When I was the Command Chief for 5th Air Force at Yokota, I had the honor of working closely with our Japanese Allies and witnessed how the Airmen of both our nations operated together, overcoming barriers and cultural differences,” McCool said. “I look forward to expanding the opportunities between our Airmen and all our Indo-Pacific partners as the PACAF command chief.”

As the first female Command Chief of PACAF, Kathleen McCool's leadership serves as a testament to the progress and inclusivity of the U.S. Air Force, paving the way for future generations of leaders in the military.