What does 1st Lt. Chelsea Hibsch, the first female airman to graduate from the grueling Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and earn the right to wear the prestigious Ranger tab, do for an encore?
Air Force Col. Douglas Jackson, Hibsch's commander at the 621st Contingency Response Wing, has the answer: more training.
Jackson said Tuesday that he is anxious to have Hibsch back and get her trained up for short-notice disaster response and combat zone airfield prep worldwide.
Hibsch, one of the "Devil Raiders" of the 621st, will have little time to rest on her laurels after getting through Ranger School.
There's "a ton of training you need to do to operate in our Wing," Jackson said.
"She is part of our team but she, like everyone else in our team, is going through the contingency response training that our folks go through," he said in a phone interview from the 2019 Air Space & Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. "She's in the process of knocking that out.
"We're all incredibly proud of her, but that's the kind of airmen we have in the Wing -- folks who are self-starters, motivated and blazing trails," Jackson said. "So Chelsea's fantastic, and we're really proud of what she did."
When the Wing posted that she had graduated from Ranger School, the social media response was overwhelmingly positive, he said.
Typical responses included "Yeah, she's really great" and "I loved working with her," Jackson said.
Hibsch, a former enlisted airman from Attica, New York, was in the process of transitioning to the 621st from a previous assignment in the Indo-Pacific region when she was selected for Ranger School, he added.
"She graduated that rigorous course and became the first [Air Force] female to earn an Army Ranger tab, which by uniform 'regs' she's entitled to wear the rest of her life," he explained.
Hibsch's accomplishment has resonated throughout the Air Force. On Monday at the conference, Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), said: "That's the caliber of airman" AFSOC is seeking. "We're anxious to see our recruiting efforts bear fruit" to put women in the ranks of AFSOC, he said.
Once she gets through contingency operations training at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, headquarters of the 621st Contingency Response Wing, she will serve with the 821st Contingency Response Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California, which is part of the 621st, Jackson said.
"Chelsea is a defender, so she's a security forces officer," he said.
She will be part of the teams who deploy on short notice to set up or restore airfields in hurricane response and go anywhere in the world where U.S. forces are in immediate need of a landing field for fixed-wing aircraft, he said.
-- Military.com's Oriana Pawlyk contributed to this report.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.