MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Alabama --
The former senior military assistant to the secretary of the Air Force took command of the service’s largest officer accessioning center during a change of command ceremony, May 21, 2020, on Maxwell.
Brigadier Gen. Leslie Maher took charge of Air University’s Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions and Citizen Development from Brig. Gen. Christopher Niemi during the ceremony.
As the Holm Center commander, Maher, who had served as the military assistant to the service secretary since March 2019, leads more than 3,300 Airmen, training 120,000 cadets at 2,085 global locations. Locations include Air Force ROTC host detachments at 145 colleges and universities, with cadets at more than 1,050 respective cross-town schools; Officer Training School; and 885 Air Force Junior ROTC units at high schools around the world. The center produces more than 85 percent of the Air Force’s active duty, Guard and Reserve line officers, judge advocates, chaplains and medical officers.
Air University Commander and President Lt. Gen. James Hecker presided over the ceremony, which was live-streamed.
“The Holm Center commander, General Niemi, had a tremendous responsibility to make sure he developed officers with the leadership, character and core values we need to lead our Air Force, and he’s done a spectacular job,” said Hecker.
Referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and the requirement that the Holm Center continue producing officers, Hecker said that the general and his team faced “a lot of challenges.”
“But [General Niemi] stepped up to the plate to handle those challenges,” he said.
Maher served as the commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing, Scott AFB, Illinois, from February 2018 to March 2019 and participated in numerous operations, including operations Southern Watch, Allied Force, Noble Eagle, Desert Fox, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and relief efforts in support of Joint Task Force-Matthew.
Additionally, she served as both deputy director and director of mobility forces directing more than 2,700 airlift missions supporting the recovery of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Maher has a master navigator rating, with more than 1,900 flight hours in T-43, T-34C and KC-135R/T aircraft.
“[General Maher] is definitely qualified to take over this job,” said Hecker, noting that she graduated from OTS and Squadron Officer School here. After listing her notable achievements up to this point in her career, the general amended his statement.
“You’re definitely qualified for the job … actually, I’d say you’re over-qualified for the job,” he said to Maher.
The general is a prior-enlisted member, having received her commission through OTS in 2000.
“As a graduate of OTS, I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead the organization that set the foundation of who I am as a leader. I can think of no greater honor than to assist ROTC and OTS in shaping tomorrow’s air, space and cyberspace leaders,” she said in an email interview before the ceremony.
“Furthermore,” Maher added, “as a mom of two middle school-aged boys, I am proud to work with those who are shaping our country’s citizens and communities through JROTC. These programs are critically important to our strength as a nation, and I will work tirelessly to ensure the Holm Center team continues the great initiatives started and sustained by my predecessor, Brigadier General Niemi, and his team of professionals.”
Taking command in the midst of a pandemic, Maher encouraged her new team to fight through the unique challenges they are and will be facing.
“Lastly, COVID-19 has proven fertile ground for innovation and testing our agility to protect our most precious assets, our Airmen and cadets. We are resilient and are proving stronger than ever as we tackle this latest threat,” she said. “I want to express my sincere gratitude to Lieutenant General Hecker and my Air Force leadership in placing me as the commander of the Holm Center. I am excited about this new challenge.”