When Colonel Adria Zuccaro took her place as the 13th commander of the 128th Air Refueling Wing September 2020, she made history by being the first female to ever hold that position.
Through her inclusive leadership and willingness to start the year off strong, she has made it clear that the milestone of her gender would not be her only legacy as the leader of Milwaukee’s Brew City Tankers.
“My vision for this wing is pretty simple – that we remain in business; that we are here 50 years from now; and that we are part of our nation’s defense,” said Colonel Zuccaro. “We have quality. We have dedication. We have all the resources we need to make that happen.”
Now lives in Whitefish Bay, Colonel Zuccaro has family ties to Wisconsin. She worked her way up to the top by serving in many leadership positions, and previously served as executive officer to the commander of First Air Force at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Colonel Zuccaro credited opportunities to take on influential positions were vital in developing her career and as an Airman.
“I worked at the 601st Air and Space Operations Center at Tyndall Air Force Base and had a large part in the day-to-day operations of our national defense through Operation Noble Eagle,” said Colonel Zuccaro. “I’m pretty proud of the work I got to do there and the team I worked with.”
Including the KC-135 Stratotanker, which is the assigned airframe at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Colonel Zuccaro is also a pilot of various aircraft platforms. She has flown over 3,000 flight hours and has been deployed in support of Operations Northern Watch, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Inherent Resolve, and Freedom’s Sentinel. Over her career as an aviator, Colonel Zuccaro faced many challenges and had some advice for future Airmen looking to become pilots.
“In the military, if you’re going to go into aviation operations, you have to realize you’re actually getting two jobs,” said Colonel Zuccaro. “You really have to be able to prioritize. A pilot’s primary and most risky job is flying airplanes successfully, but they are also tasked with a secondary job within the squadron. Both are important and necessary.”
Women’s History Month is celebrated in March by highlighting women who have made contributions to improve the lives for generations that will come after them. Colonel Zuccaro’s work serves as an example, through her continued efforts to help other women overcome barriers to advance their careers.
“I have had the opportunity, now, to work with the women that are in the next generation,” said Colonel Zuccaro. “I find it really interesting the difference in attitudes. I’m kind of the last piece of the generation that just worked as hard as you could to remain on the team. The next generation, they don’t see it that way. They are part of the team and they know it. They are taking down barriers that we hadn’t gotten to or couldn’t get to. It’s so inspiring to see what they are doing and how they go about it.”
Looking back at Women’s History Month from previous years, Colonel Zuccaro said that she was grateful for those women that have come before her, who worked so hard to support women in future generations.
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Lee Matz and Jaclyn Sommers