The Roundup: A Conversation With Two-Star Major Gen. Stacy Jo Huser

This week, Wendy Corr talks with Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser. Huser is the first female commander of the 20th Air Force at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne. She talks about her journey from pre-med student to two-star general and what it's like to move up in the ranks as a woman in the military.

WC
Wendy Corr

April 27, 202425 min read

The Roundup
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)
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Wendy Corr:

Well, hey there, folks, and welcome to The Roundup, a podcast featuring voices, opinions and perspectives from interesting people around the Cowboy State. I love my job! I love the people that I get to talk to, and that I get to introduce you to! I am your host, Wendy Corr. And I get to introduce you today to a fascinating woman who has just taken over as the commander - she's the 25th commander of the 20th Air Force, which is actually at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne. This is Major General Stacy Jo Huser, and I am just in awe of this woman, and in awe of what she's done, and how far she's come - and made her way up through the ranks to become a major general in the US Air Force. Good morning, Major General, it's really nice to meet you!

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

Good morning, Wendy, thank you so much for having me on. 

Wendy Corr:

I'm tickled because I think that people - number one, what an honor it is for us to actually meet and talk to and have a conversation with the commander of the Air Force here in Wyoming, but also to get to know who you are. Because honestly, you are the first female commander of the Air Force in Wyoming. And does it feel good to say, “I'm the one that got to break that barrier?” Tell me about that. That's got to be - if it was me, I would think, there'd be a lot of responsibility there.

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

It does feel good. It is a little overwhelming when I think about it, so I try not to think about it too often. And the one thing I do like to remind people is, I am the first, but there are a lot of amazing women who are coming after me, who are Lieutenant Colonels and Colonels right now. So we're the first of many, many female 20th Air Force commanders.

Wendy Corr:

Absolutely. And you are not a stranger to Wyoming - you have served at F.E. Warren before. Tell us about your experience in Wyoming? Because of course, we are Cowboy State Daily, and we want to know what you think of us here in Wyoming. Obviously, you liked us enough to come back. 

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

That's right. So I was super lucky. Throughout my Air Force career, I've gotten to come to Cheyenne many times for short visits, and so when it was announced that I was going to be the Wing Commander at F.E. Warren in 2017, I was so excited because I already felt like I was going home. It felt like I was going somewhere very familiar. I knew the people, I knew the town, I knew the base. So I was very excited, and my family was super excited. My husband is a big mountain biker, so he calls Cheyenne and Wyoming his happy place. So he was excited to be here during those two years, and then probably even more excited to come back. 

Wendy Corr:

That's fantastic. I love that. Tell me about the responsibilities that you have - what does your job entail there as the commander?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

So as the 20th Air Force Commander, we oversee four Air Force bases and one helicopter group. So we oversee, of course F.E. Warren here in Cheyenne; also Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana; Minot Air Force Base in Minot, North Dakota, and then Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And then our helicopter group is headquartered here in Cheyenne. So it's about 12,000 people that we oversee.

Wendy Corr:

That's a lot of responsibility. And what is your day to day job, then? I mean, do you sit behind a desk a lot? Or do you get to get out and talk to the people that you are responsible for?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

So, there are some days where it is just meeting after meeting, but I'm also very fortunate that I get to travel a lot. So I've been down to Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque recently, I've been to Malmstrom in Great Falls recently - most recently for their annual women's symposium, which was amazing. So I get to do a lot of traveling and seeing the men and women who work in our nuclear enterprise - the airmen, the civilians, the amazing contractors that we have supporting our enterprise. So it's a big treat, and probably the highlight of my job is visiting all those people.

Wendy Corr:

You know, you mentioned going to the women's symposium - that's probably something that previous commanders of the 20th Air Force have not had to do, which is, go advocate and celebrate the fact that it's unusual and remarkable for you to reach this particular career point. And that's got to be, again, you probably get sick of hearing it and get sick of being singled out just because you're a woman, but from a woman's perspective, like I say, I think that it's fascinating what you're doing. And remarkable. So tell us about that, that role of being that high profile woman.

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

So what's interesting is, probably the first 10 years of my career, I didn't think much about being a woman in the Air Force. And in fact, there were a lot of times where I was the only woman at my job - the only woman in a group of men. And I was like, “Oh, I'm just one of the guys, you know, I'll just try to fit in.” And I didn't think much about it, but about 10 years into my career, and I don't know why - I don't know if it was just maturing, or if it was having daughters of my own - when I started to get a little bit angry that I was the only woman, or the first woman. I thought, “I should be surrounded by women, and there should have been all kinds of women who came before me.” So that's when I became a better advocate for women and diversity in general, in the Air Force.

Wendy Corr:

That's wonderful. Tell me about your family. I want to hear, and I'm sure listeners want to hear, about your family, too. You've talked about your husband, you've talked about daughters, tell us, what are their ages? Where are they? What are they doing?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

So first of all, my husband has never been in the military. And I know that I'm very lucky that he's extremely supportive. He's very portable, which sounds like a funny thing to say about your spouse, but he moves easily. When I have a very demanding job, he'll be a stay at home dad. And he is much better at braiding hair, he's much better at doing the ballet buns than I am. He always does the cooking. So I know I am super fortunate, because a lot of our airmen are single parents, or their spouse has a job that's just as important as theirs. So I know I'm lucky. 

And then for kids, we waited a bit longer, as many people are doing nowadays. So our kids are still young, 14 and 16. And, again, I'm lucky with them, because I thought the teenage years would get a lot harder when it comes to moving. But they actually love moving. And I'm so fortunate that they do. 

Wendy Corr:

Oh, my gosh, yes, that is a rare, rare thing. That's fabulous. And so you have moved a lot, and that's just part of being in the military. But tell us about your journey. When did you decide to go into the military? When did you say, “You know what, I think this is the career path that I want to follow.”

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

So, it was not a well thought out plan. I'll start with that. My husband and I were married, and we were living in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I was working in a hospital, because I thought I was going to be a doctor, and I was being put on waiting lists at medical schools. And I had a friend who was a missileer in the Air Force, and I was talking to him on the phone, and he just told me how much money he made - and it was twice as much as I was making working in the hospital, working overtime. 

And so I went down to the recruiter, and at that time - it was 1995 - I was a female with a degree, so it was very easy to get accepted into the Air Force. And I was just going to do four years, and figure out what to be when I grew up - but four years came and went, and I realized I loved the Air Force. My husband loved the Air Force. We loved the missions, but we loved the airmen even more. And so it was then that I decided I could never leave - until the Air Force said they were done with me. 

Wendy Corr:

Wow, that's definitely a great story, and a wonderful - right there, that's recruitment, right there. So you started out then in Michigan, and where did you go to Basic? And tell us about your military journey.

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

So yes, since I already had a degree, the way I commissioned was by going through Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. So, it's about 13 weeks, and they take either people who were enlisted in the Air Force or enlisted in different service, or people like me who just had college degrees and no service, and they train you - and when you're done, you're a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. 

And I was told I was going to be a Space and Missile operator, because at the time, Space Force didn't exist, and space and missiles was in a single career field. So space and missiles was my future. And my first job was actually monitoring the signal of GPS satellites, kind of when GPS was a pretty new thing, which is hard to believe nowadays.

Wendy Corr:

It is! Oh my goodness. How interesting is that? So did you have NASA in your sights? Is that something you wanted to do? Or you just wanted to stay in the Air Force and work through it that way. 

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

No, just stay in the Air Force. And I thought space was going to be my future. But then I became an instructor for space, and that's when I met a lot of people who did our nuclear mission, and people who were missileers. And they had a camaraderie, and a shared history, and this instant bond that I wanted. That's what I wanted for the rest of my career. So I volunteered to leave space and become a missileer, and I've been a missileer ever since.

Wendy Corr:

What is a missileer? Tell us about this. This is a term that I had not heard until you and I talked right before we started. 

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

So, a lot of the American public doesn't really know that missileers are even a thing, or if they had heard about missileers, they don't think we still exist. So, it's typically a two member crew of officers who sit underground at sites, typically in the northern states in our country. And they monitor different, what we call, launch facilities, that contain Minuteman III missiles. And if the President were to order - based off of the advice of his senior military members - if the President were to order a launch of nuclear missiles, it is the missileers who would launch those missiles.

Wendy Corr:

It sounds lonely. It doesn't sound like a big group of people that have camaraderie... It sounds like you're stuck in a tube at the bottom of a hole. But you think that - you obviously said, “No, this is what I want to do.” 

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

I actually love it. You get to spend 24 hours at a time with another person, and that person changes. It could change every time you go out and perform your duty, it could be a different person. But you get to know people on a deep level - you play games together, you discuss life together, you watch movies, you share. So I really love it. For an introverted person like me, it is probably the ideal situation. 

Wendy Corr:

Wait a minute, introverted? Introverted doesn't get you to be the commander of the 20th Air Force. How does that work?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

It's a real struggle. So when you and I get done talking, I have lunch scheduled. And I'll sit here and be quiet for a while.

Wendy Corr:

Yes, exactly. Oh, my goodness. So you decided to be a missileer, and that took you various places - you started in Alabama. Tell us about where you went from there. Where are some of the places that you've served?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

So I went from Alabama to what is now Vandenberg Space Force Base on the coast of California, and that's where I did my initial training for space and missiles. And then when I operated the GPS satellites, I was at Schriever Air Force Base, now SpaceForce base in Colorado, and I've been all over the country. So I've been to Montana, North Dakota, from coast to coast. I've been down at Barksdale, Louisiana, Washington DC a few times. Omaha, Nebraska a few times. So lots of places all around our country.

Wendy Corr:

You've really gotten that chance to travel, which I think is why a lot of people join the military - they want to travel and see the world, and you have had a chance to do that. Where did you come from right before you came here and took over in January?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

I was in a really interesting job, I was assigned to the Department of Energy for three years. A lot of people don't know that it's actually the Department of Energy that designs and produces our nuclear weapons. So they usually have a one star military person assigned there who serves as basically a glorified liaison between the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. So I was super lucky to do that job. I've seen what the Department of Defense does for our nuclear enterprise, and in that position, I got to see what the Department of Energy does and meet all of their amazing humans that support the enterprise.

Wendy Corr:

Tell me - because I think it had to have been just a wonderful honor for you, when you were named to this position - tell me about the process of being named. When did you find out that you were in the running? And then when did you find out that you got the job?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

That's a hard one. So I actually found out well, well in advance. So, our senior leaders kind of know the plan for their people well in advance, so I knew I was going to get the job, which meant I knew I was going to get promoted from one star to two star. And then, if you're aware, a lot of the general officer nominations were held up for several months in the Senate, so we had to wait for that to kind of break through. But once that broke through, it was instantaneous for me. So that was, I think it was on the fifth of December, that all the holds on the nominations were released, and I was promoted that day, which was crazy. 

Wendy Corr:

Yeah, because then a month later, you're here! A month later, you take over in Cheyenne. Tell us about the transition.

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

The Air Force was very kind to me. So the Air Force - again, my senior leaders knew I was going to come into this position. So because I had kids that I really wanted to get into school, they moved me ahead of time over the summer, which was very generous. And so I got to serve as a special assistant to my predecessor, General Lutton, who was very kind, and basically, let me shadow him for six months, which is a rare opportunity that you never get going into command. I was so lucky.

Wendy Corr:

That is fabulous. So you really knew the job before you took over, so that transition was very smooth. And obviously, you had a chance to shadow your predecessor, so you got to know him, as well, and probably built a really great relationship through that, too.

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

It's true. And I had worked for him before, so we already had a really good relationship, and he and my husband bike together. So they consider themselves friends, which was fun. So I was very lucky that we already had that relationship. 

And you're right, normally, when you take command of any unit, you give yourself some time to figure out what their challenges are, what their successes are, what the people are good at, what their strengths are. But since I had been observing for six months, I already knew all of that, so it was a lot quicker for me to hit the ground running.

Wendy Corr:

Tell me about the challenges. What are the unique challenges that face you in Cheyenne, in Wyoming? In this job? What's unique about this compared to some of the other places that you served?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

So, one of the unique challenges that we face, especially in the nuclear enterprise and in the ICBM business, is that we have a system that we operate that is quite old. So, 60s and 70s was when the system was put in place. So it is keeping that system lethal, ready, safe, secure, reliable, while we await a new system that we'll be getting in the coming decades.

Wendy Corr:

So, this is an actual news question. What is the plan for this? Because we've been hearing that this whole system is going to turn over, and this, as you mentioned, is a decades-long process. What is this process? What can we be looking at?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

So the system that we currently have in place is the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile. And the system that we're going to be getting is called Sentinel. And what a lot of people don't realize is that Sentinel is not just replacing the missile, it is replacing the entire infrastructure. So the place where I sat underground with another missileer is going to be replaced. The launch facilities where the missiles are at will be refurbished and replaced. So it is a huge project that's going to span across five states in the northern tier of our country. It's going to be a huge labor force, a huge endeavor, probably one of the largest projects the Department of Defense has ever undertaken. But, our enterprise is extremely excited for it to come. We've been looking forward to this for a long time.

Wendy Corr:

What's different about this system? What's different from Minuteman to Sentinel?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

So I can't speak to a lot of the specifics, but it is going to be a lot more user friendly. It's going to be easier for our maintainers to maintain and sustain it, it's going to have better safety and security features. So, just overall, a much better system for us and for our nation. 

Wendy Corr:

That's great. Yes, no, of course, you can't say details. But that’s, I think, what a lot of people say, “Well, what's wrong with the old system other than the fact that it is very old, and it's been in place for a long time?” I think a lot of people also don't realize that the missile fields - I mean, you've got F.E. Warren Air Force Base, that's where everything is, but there are missile fields throughout, like you say, the northern states here, especially in the Great Plains and in Wyoming. So, no wonder you have to travel a lot! Do you get out there onto those fields frequently? Or is that something that you just kind of oversee?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

No, I do. And actually, when I was a wing commander here from 2017 to 2019, I still, what we call, ‘pulled alerts’ - I still sat with another missileer and did the job with them. Because that's the best way to know what's going on out in the field is to spend time out there, and especially that one on one time with somebody who - you know, at first, when they're sitting out there with a colonel, they don't want to talk. But after 24 hours, they're going to talk and they're going to tell you what challenges they're facing or what concerns they have. So yes, I still have had opportunities over the years to keep going out to our fields.

Wendy Corr:

What excites you about your job? What do you love most about your job?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

Well, this is going to come as no surprise to you, but it is definitely the people. I love - in my headquarters where I work, there's only about 90 people, which is pretty small for a headquarters. And so you can know each person, personally, which is fun. I love to know people, I love to know their families, I love to know their hobbies, their likes and dislikes, their birthday, I just love to know everything about them. When I was a Wing Commander, I struggled a bit because I had 4000 people. And I was like, “Well, I can't possibly know 4000 people.” So it was trying to find those opportunities to meet with the people that I worked with and get to know them in small groups and a bit better.

Wendy Corr:

Your job has to be demanding. I mean, you have to be pulled in a lot of different directions. When you leave your office at the end of the day, what do you do? What do you and your family do? Tell us about behind-the-scenes Major General Stacy Jo Huser.

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

So, because I do have a 14 and 16 year old, they have a lot of clubs. They are not sporty, but they are nerds. So there's usually a book club, d&d clubs, Science Olympiad, you name it, they have a club after school. So it's, you know, making sure that they're getting to their clubs, or getting picked up. And then again, my husband cooks, so he cooks dinner. My kids and us, we love to play games, we love to watch movies. So typically, almost every evening, it's either a game, a movie, or a series that we're watching on Netflix.

Wendy Corr:

So you are just this typical American family. It has nothing to do with the fact that you are the commander of, you know, the nuclear force in Wyoming - that, I think, is fantastic. And those girls are girls after my own heart. I love it. 

Tell me, Major General, what do you appreciate most about being back here in Wyoming? What is it about the state that draws you that says, “You know what, I'm so glad that we're here.”

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

So when we left Wyoming last time, in 2019, I said to my husband, “I can see why so many of our friends retire, and don't leave.” Because the people are amazing. The town is fun. I love the rodeo, I love the Cowboys. I love bragging about Wyoming, I love bragging about Cheyenne. All of our civic leaders that we get to interact with are just truly kind, caring people who love supporting us and love advocating for us. I forget that, sometimes, some military bases don't have the amazing support that we do in our community. They take care of our Airmen like you wouldn't believe, it's just so awesome. 

And I love the landscape. I love the high altitude. I love the dry air. I love running here. My husband loves biking here - there isn't anything I can think of that we don't love about living here.

Wendy Corr:

So let me go back to the unique position that you're in as the first female commander, and being an advocate for women. You mentioned before that you really wish that you were surrounded by so many more women - and I think I see some women in the background there. So you obviously have a strong contingency of women airmen there at F.E. Warren. Tell us about, what you would tell someone who's watching, why you would encourage their daughters or their nieces or their friends to consider a career in the Air Force. What is it in the Air Force that holds something really special and important for women?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

Definitely. And, you know, over the years, especially as a missileer, our numbers of women in the missile career field have only been growing and growing over the years. I think, as of a few years ago, almost a third of our young missileers were women, which is amazing. We lose a lot of women around the 10 year point in their careers because that's when they're making decisions on starting their families. And a lot of women think that - or believe, or have been told, that they can't do both. They can't have a family and serve the military. So one of the things I've done is make sure that other women see me with my children. And I remind them, it's not easy, nobody ever said it was easy. And it's definitely not easy to be a mom, a wife, and a person serving in the military. But I like to show my kids off, to just show that it can be done. So don't let anybody tell you can't do both, because you definitely can. 

Wendy Corr:

What are some of the things that women can aspire to in the military? Can they all aspire to be a colonel, Major General, a general? What are some of the pathways there that people can follow in order to reach success, and not just serve their time?

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

It really depends a lot on what career field they're in, because some career fields just don't have general officer positions available. In my career field, they can go as high as they want. They can be a four star commander - and we actually have had missileer four-star commanders. In fact, right now the commander of U.S. STRATCOM, General Cotton, was a former missileer, and he used to be in my position. So that shows people - and women - how far you can go.

Wendy Corr:

That's fantastic. I just want to say, Major General, this has been a phenomenal conversation. Are there any other things that you want to tell the people of Wyoming, that you want to say, “Thanks for being so supportive of what we're doing here, and thanks for welcoming us - not just your family - but the people and the men and women that served there at F.E. Warren?”

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

I do want to thank the people of Wyoming, and especially the people of Cheyenne, because coming back here, it truly was like coming home. Because, though the airmen turn over and leave and move on to their next assignments, the people in the town of Cheyenne stay, and that is our support network, and we lean on them heavily. And they invest in us, which we appreciate, and they advocate for us and they fight for us and fight to make sure we have the resources and support that we need. So I really truly appreciate everyone in this town. They've been incredible.

Wendy Corr:

Well, thank you so much, Major General, this has been a fantastic conversation! Thank you for your time. Thank you for what you're doing here with us at the F.E. Warren Air Force base there in Cheyenne. And folks, thank you for tuning into The Roundup! We've had just such an interesting conversation. Stay tuned, next week, we're going to have another really interesting guest - you won't want to miss it. I've been your host, Wendy Corr. Have a great week! Thank you so much, Major General Huser. 

Maj. Gen. Stacy Jo Huser:

Thank you so much.

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