LOA’s “Legacy Logistics Ladies” Woman's History Month ’19 Interview Series
Interview with: Brigadier General Michele K. LaMontagne Chief of Staff - Air, Joint Force Headquarters, New Mexico Air National Guard, Santa Fe, N.M
By: 2d Lt Esther Ku
Exceptional Release: What led you to the logistics career field?
Brig. Gen. Michele LaMontagne: “Initially, I was not sure what I really wanted to do but I knew that I wanted to lead and develop a lot of people. I had a friend in Aircraft Maintenance and after speaking with him, I put it on my dream sheet and I ended up getting the job. I also had a chance to work in supply management as part of a career broadening opportunity called SKY which allowed me to grow and learn more about the logistics enterprise.”
ER: When you began your career, did you ever imagine that you would be where you are today?
LAMONTAGNE: “No, not at all! I was in the bottom 20% of my class at the Air Force Academy and my goal was to make it to Lt Colonel and I would have been satisfied with my career. Becoming a General was a surprise to me. I didn’t think that I would reach this rank, but I made sure I took every opportunity that came my way and did all I could to be prepared to take those opportunities when they came. There are a few things I focused on throughout my career. First, I made sure that all little jobs that I was responsible for were taken care of. Next, I took the time to mentor people for not only their future but also so that there were replacements ready when people needed to move on. Lastly, I sought out and took advantage of every training opportunity that was available to me. I took every chance to learn and was lucky to have the support of the Air Force.”
ER: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
LAMONTAGNE: “One of my best experiences was at Shaw Air force Base when I was a Second Lieutenant. Three days before the Daedalian Award package was due, the project officer was relieved of the responsibility and it ended up being entrusted to four Lieutenants. The four of us pulled two all night sessions using one of the first Microsoft programs to put together a package consisting of 40 pages. We did not expect to win, but we were thrilled to have found out that we ended up winning not only at the Air Combat Command level, but also at the Air Force level as well.”
ER: What woman inspires or inspired you and why?
LAMONTAGNE: “Women were scarce in the military but even scarcer in the maintenance career field when I first started. I did not have a squadron commander or group commander that was a woman that I could look up to and be mentored by. Today, though not always in the military, there are so many women that I look up to and that inspire me around the world. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an excellent example, but also many women in the local Albuquerque area that truly care about their community and live to help others.“
ER: Which assignment was the most difficult for you looking back in your career and how did that experience, or challenge change you?
LAMONTAGNE: “I had been a squadron commander for about 8 years in the Air National Guard when I was asked to be the next Wing Inspector General. I refused the first two times that they asked me because I was comfortable in Maintenance and I did not want to step out of my comfort zone. It was a job I had never had before and so I was resistant. Nevertheless, accepting this opportunity led me to have different experiences and helped me to be more well-rounded and versatile. Because of this experience, I always encourage others to step out of their individual comfort zones and try things that challenge them.”
ER: What are some things that women can do better to support one another, especially in the military?
LAMONTAGNE: “We can be better about mentorship and development of one other. We should not limit mentorship to being from a higher-ranking officer to a lower-ranking officer. Mentorship is about developing relationships where we can give and take advice and learn from each other. I have many instances where I received good advice from Captains because I did not limit myself. We should spend time with one another and ask the questions to see how we are doing and take the time to have conversations.”
ER: If you had endless resources with no restrictions for a day, what decision or change would you make?
LAMONTAGNE: “I would hit the reset button on readiness. There are so many requirements that must be met to accomplish readiness and so we tend to fall behind. I would want complete readiness of our equipment and personnel.”
ER: What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders? Any words of encouragement?
LAMONTAGNE: “I recently started to read about women in the military and I have been learning especially about how women mentored and helped others in the past. I want to encourage the next generation to read about women during the Civil War, the Gulf War and in the military in general so that they can be motivated to do the same.”
“A word of encouragement I have is for us to focus not on ourselves but focus more on others. I think it is important to remember that one of the key roles of a leader is to be selfless and really take the time to develop others.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
2d Lt Esther Ku is the Special Weapons Flight OIC in the 898 MUNS, currently stationed at Kirtland AFB, Albuquerque, New Mexico.