Writing Women into History: Ms. Christine Prewitt, Chief Shelia Knox

  • Published
  • By Teri Baker
  • 42nd Air Base Wing
"Writing Women Back into History," the theme of this year's Women's History Month, affords us an opportunity to focus on individuals who are currently making history at Maxwell-Gunter. Two of these, Ms. Christine Prewitt, deputy commander of the 42nd Mission Support Group, and Chief Shelia Knox, superintendent for the 42nd MSG, make an exceptional partnership. This team works to ensure base organizations (including more than 50 mission partners) have the support needed to accomplish their missions and meet future requirements.

Ms. Prewitt has an expansive background. A woman aviator with more than 4,100 hours in C-9As, C-9Cs, C-12s, T-37s and T-38s, she has successfully transitioned from an Air Force colonel to civil service. During her military career, she also served as instructor and evaluator pilot, training chief, wing executive officer, squadron recruiter commander, communications officer, deputy operations commander, group commander and chief of resources and strategic business planning at Air Mobility Command. Returning to Maxwell, she served as the director of the Commanders' Professional Development School and was responsible for the development of the Air Force Incident Management Course, which makes her uniquely qualified in her role as the Maxwell Emergency Operations Center director. Following her assignment as the Dean of Administration/International Student Management Officer at the International Officer School, she retired in 2007 and transitioned to civil service in 2008.

Chief Knox has an equally expansive background, serving as a dining facility and fitness center manager, NCO in charge of lodging, squadron superintendent, first sergeant and MAJCOM functional; she also served with the Air Force Port Mortuary at Dover, Del. Her wide educational background, including applied science, technology and military science and management and leadership is significant to her success.

Chief Knox's philosophy is to maintain a continuum of education throughout her life. She says it's important to intentionally plan to go to school, staying updated, asking the tough questions to keep herself abreast of changes and tools so she is prepared to serve as a mentor to more than 1,100 members of the MSG. Chief Knox took every assignment and from those, other opportunities came along. She was prepared to take each opportunity, which led her to her current position. She loves a challenge and enters each with a winning perspective. Leading by example, she describes her leadership: "lead with firm hands and a soft heart."

Ms. Prewitt agrees, "I didn't want to disappoint family and mentors who have supported me." That has motivated her throughout her career. She also acknowledges working with extraordinary Americans also is a huge factor. She observes women often bring balance to leadership positions, a view also shared by Chief Knox. They agree balance originates in the traditional roles women have filled - juggling marriage, children, work and personal time, and expecting to do each well - and are perfect training for positions in the MSG.

Both of these extraordinary women are concerned with the future and are actively taking steps to improve its outlook. Ms. Prewitt says officer retention is an issue, citing several examples within the MSG. The increasing ops tempo and deployments have created additional and consistent stress on military marriages and families. Chief Knox agrees, adding that the enlisted troops must focus on off-duty education; they "can't get away from our degree culture" to meet the performance requirements for contemporary Air Force jobs. Members must be well rounded and need to pursue a continuum of education. Both state new members are academically oriented, understand technology, but sometimes have problems applying common sense. Both apply what-if scenarios or simple exercises to help airmen use common sense solutions.

Chief Knox believes in drawing wisdom from older and more experienced individuals and recommends this to her Airmen. Each agrees that work is relatively easy compared with the unknowns of raising children. Ms. Prewitt observes that work brings quick results compared with the unknown of how children will develop.

Each woman brings a unique perspective to the MSG, and together they are a true synergistic team. They uniquely complement each other, and their success is based on common Air Force core values. This invincible partnership based on shared values, "can do" attitudes, a myriad of experience, balanced priorities, and most importantly, leading by example, have and will continue to make a difference to the Airmen at Maxwell-Gunter as we rewrite "Women back into History."