MORRISVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Sunday brought new leadership for the aviation brigade in the North Carolina National Guard, as a new commander was officially sworn in during a ceremony.
The commander who is leaving the post, Col. Michele Harper, made history being the first female to hold the position.
“My successes were the soldiers, and the reason I’m successful is because of what they’ve done for the units, and for the units I’ve been involved in, they’re the ones that made me successful,” Col. Harper said.
She’s no stranger to aviation, with a decorated career in flying.
“I graduated from Apalachin State University, I went through ROTC and I went right away to flight school, and became a commissioned officer,” she said.
She’s also made history — Col. Harper is the first woman to ever hold the position in the state. It’s something she says she’s proud of, but doesn’t focus on.
“I just want soldiers to know that I’m here for everyone, no matter who they are, and I just really want to instill that pride in them and kind of exhibit their potential,” she said.
On Sunday, she passed on the reigns to Col. Benny Collins. In a speech, he said he’s thankful and humbled by the opportunity, and grateful for the guidance Col. Harper leaves behind. He said the day was not about him, though, but about the dozens of soldiers standing in support of their own missions.
“They are the reason we’re here, and all of this is about them, and these colors, more than us,” Col. Collins said.
With the title officially in Col. Collins’ hands, Col. Harper said she’s simply proud of the work her team has done over the last three years.
“We have supported so many people during hurricanes, snow storms, floods, so many things that we have done, and with covid we responded in so many different ways than we’ve had to before,” she explained.
Now, though, she says she’s excited to spend more time with family, while always supporting her soldiers.