1st women to command one of New York Air National Guard’s five flying wings

Denise Donnell, the first woman to command the New York Air National Guard, was promoted to the two-star rank of major general at Stratton Air National Guard Base.

Donnell was the first woman to command one of the New York Air National Guard’s five flying wings and is one of only five women to attain the rank of major general in the New York National Guard, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office. Donnell’s two-star general’s rank was pinned on by her father, Dr. Robert Donnell, and brother, Air National Guard Technical Sgt. John Donnell.

Hochul appointed Donnell as commander of the 5,800 airmen and women of the nation’s largest Air Guard contingent in April.

The Air National Guard members under Donnell’s command respond when disaster strikes in New York and conduct critical missions overseas, according to a summary provided by the governor’s office. Members of the Guard’s 107th Attack Wing, based at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, were the first military members responding to the deadly blizzard that hit Buffalo during the holiday.

The 109th Airlift Wing, based at Stratton, flies LC-130s and is the only unit in the world with heavy-lift aircraft equipped with skis. The aircraft are capable of landing on snow and ice, supporting the nation’s Arctic strategy and climate research being conducted in Antarctica by the National Science Foundation.

Other New York Air Guard troops fly supplies around the world, protect American and allied troops by flying remotely controlled aircraft on combat air patrols, track aircraft in nation’s skies as part of NORAD and can conduct rescues at sea. New York has the distinction of being the first state to have a woman join its National Guard: World War II veteran and nurse Norma Parsons joined in 1956, attached to the 106th Tactical Hospital, the governor’s office notes.

“It is an honor to be recognized by Governor Hochul, the first woman to lead our state. These stars are not about me: They’re about making a difference for the nearly 6,000 men and women of the New York Air National Guard and a reflection of their collective accomplishments,” Donnell said in a statement.