55th Electronic Combat Group welcomes first female commander

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  • By 55th Wing Public Affairs

The 55th Electronic Combat Group, a geographically separated unit of the 55th Wing, welcomed its first female commander during a change of command ceremony at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base July 29, 2022.

Col. Melanie Olson accepted the guidon from Col. G. Michael Cundiff, Jr., with Col. Kristen Thompson, 55th Wing commander, serving as presiding official virtually due to a last-minute schedule conflict.

“Thank you, Col. Thompson, for giving me this opportunity,” Olson said. “To the members of the ECG, I am extremely honored to be trusted to serve as your next commander in the best group in the Air Force.”

The incoming commander arrives to the ECG from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, where she was U.S. Strategic Command’s Contingency Plans Division chief.

“I have zero doubt you will lead this group to new heights and will inspire many to continue their consequential Air Force journey,” Thompson said. “It’s the beginning of two tough years, but I promise they will be the most rewarding of your life.”

Besides leading the group of more than 800 Airmen, Olson will also help the ECG usher in the new EC-37B Compass Call aircraft that’s planned to replace the current fleet of EC-130Hs over the next several years.

“This will be no easy feat,” Thompson said. “We will all be tempted to focus on the mission, the hardware, and the software of this magnificent platform, but never ever forget the humans that prep it, maintain it, service it, advance it, refuel it or operate it.”

Olson has served within the ECG multiple times throughout her career, including most recently as its deputy commander from February 2017 to July 2019.

“To the former ECG commanders, thank you for paving the way,” she said. “I am honored to stand among such great leaders.”

Olson, a native of Arizona, is a senior navigator with more than 2,000 flight hours, including nearly 800 combat hours.

“I say with great pride that there are so many people who helped me get here because I did not achieve this on my own,” she said. “The investments everyone made in me across every walk of life means so much and you have all challenged me to be a better version of myself.”

Cundiff leaves the ECG after spending more than half of his career within the group in a variety of positions.

“To the Jammer family…you are the reason the ECG is the most respected and elite airborne electronic attack unit in the world,” said Cundiff. “You have found a way to maintain combat readiness in the midst of a global pandemic and embraced the transition from a persistent deployment posture to one in which you are ready to launch on short notice. You are the reason the ECG is a family, and you are the reason the ECG is my family.”

The outgoing commander now heads across the base to 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) where he will serve as its A3 director.

“I appreciate you running the group the way an EC-130H operates—no drama, no frills, just tough, hard work,” Thompson said. “Today we remember and recognize your achievements, the months of hard work, the self-sacrifice, and the many trials and tribulations you’ve endured ensuring the warriors of this group could defend the homeland and take the fight to the enemy.”

As ECG commander, Olson oversees five squadrons that provide combat ready EC-130H aircraft, aircrew and maintainers for worldwide expeditionary deployments in support of unified combatant commanders.