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First Woman Promoted to Colonel at Berry Field Assumes Group Command

Col. Lawana Nelson receives the guideon at the change of command ceremony for the 118th Mission Support Group at the 118th Wing in Nashville, Tennessee June 2, 2018.

Col. Lawana Nelson receives the guideon at the change of command ceremony for the 118th Mission Support Group at the 118th Wing in Nashville, Tennessee June 2, 2018. Col. Nelson assumed command from Col. Gary Smith. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Darrell Hamm / Released)

Nashville, Tenn. --

History was made when the first woman in 118th Wing history was promoted to colonel on June 1, 2018 at Berry Field Air National Guard Base, Nashville, Tenn.

Col. Lawana Nelson, one day after making wing history with her promotion, then assumed command of the 118th Mission Support Group on June 2, 2018.

The previous commander of the 118th MSG, Col. Gary Smith, departed to become the vice commander of the 164th Airlift Wing.

Nelson is no stranger to being a trailblazer for women in the military, as she was one of the first 29 females in Air Force history to go through explosive ordinance disposal school. However, she doesn’t let the fact that she is a pioneer go to her head, or distract her from the mission.

“Coming from humble beginnings from the bayous of Mississippi, I never thought that I would get here,” said Nelson. “It’s always been one goal after another, just setting your sights on one goal, accomplishing it, and setting another.”

Nelson’s humility, knowledge, and dedication to her work have earned her great respect from the people under her command.

“I’ve never seen someone who was so well versed in all facets of mission support group,” said Maj. Melissa Danley, commander of the 118th Force Support Squadron. “You can ask her almost anything down to the weeds, and she is very knowledgeable.”

“She’s a very approachable leader,” said Chief Master Sgt. Walter Roberson, force support manager of the 118th FSS. “Anytime you need some couch time, you can sit down and get some mentoring.”
While Nelson has had some incredible achievements in her career, her focus now as commander is to keep growing the next generation of Airmen.

“I like to find out what Airmen’s goals are, and see how I can help them attain whatever they’re reaching for,” said Nelson. “I don’t need the glory, I just need my Airmen to succeed. Everything they deserve is through their hard work.”

Nelson is also grateful for the impact past commanders have had on her and the 118th MSG.

“I'm just grateful Col. Smith was here for the short time that he was here, thankful for his leadership,” said Nelson. “Hopefully I will continue what he has started.”

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