Rising to the top: Manistee native Fedder recommended by president for promotion at Pentagon

When President Barack Obama recently sent the United States Senate a list of promotions and new assignments for members of the military there was a name on that list that more than likely drew the attention of Manistee County residents.

Maj. Gen. Judith Fedder of Manistee has been recommended for receiving a third star and promotion to the rank of Lt. General in the Air Force. She is presently serving in assignment at the Pentagon. (Courtesy photo)

On that list was Maj. Gen. Judith Fedder of Manistee who was recommended for being awarded a third star and the promotion to lieutenant general. If approved, Fedder will assume that rank in January 2012 and be the new deputy chief of staff for logistics, installations and mission support while working out of the Pentagon. Fedder would become the 45th Air Force officer to presently carry that rank out of the 330,000 presently serving in that branch of the service.

“I have been nominated to the Senate, and they still have to take action on it,” said Fedder. “If they do confirm for the position, I would assume a position that requires a three-star rank. It is pretty exciting to just be nominated.”

Fedder is the daughter of Gordon and Rebecca Fedder of Manistee and has served more than 30 years in the Air Force since she first entered active duty after graduating from Michigan State University in 1980. She took part  in the R.O.T.C. program in college and the 1976 graduate of Manistee Catholic Central pointed out that she has enjoyed every aspect of her career.

“I have been lucky, and never imagined being able to serve at this level when I came into the Air Force in 1980,” said Fedder. “I think a lot of it is I just enjoyed the service, and being a part of it. I enjoyed being an airman, I enjoyed being in uniform, and that has a lot to do with it. That, along with the great opportunities that are available in the uniform services really led me down paths that I never imagined possible when I first came into the Air Force.”

The major general said that she feels there is so much to gain from a career in the military, but that it can be different for each individual. For her, it meant a career of service, but for others it might be a shorter time to learn and grow as a person by serving for four, six or 10 years.

“If there is any message I can pass along on all services of the United States military, it is that they really offer a lot of opportunities for young people to come in, and do things they might not even imagine they are capable of doing,” said Fedder. “The opportunities are out there for anyone from small towns, cities, for any gender or background, as the United States military is an organization open to anyone.”

However, like the exceptional  leader she is, Fedder was quick to praise the men and women that she served with over the years for being major factors in contributing to her success.

Maj. Gen. Judith Fedder of Manistee singles out a staff member at one of the Korean Air Bases and congratulates him. (Courtesy photo)

“I credit any opportunity I have to the fact that I have worked with some great airmen and military members for many years,” said Fedder. “It is who you work with, and the team you create that makes a difference.”

The nomination for the new position will be Fedder’s third tour of duty with the Pentagon. In her present position as Air Force director of logistics at the Pentagon, she works below the person she will be replacing when he leaves that duty on the first of the year.

“My current job includes providing policy, resourcing and guidance for aircraft maintenance,” said Fedder. “That is the biggest part of my job for munitions support for all supply and transportation. Those are the three big things.

“This will be my third tour in the Pentagon, and I am fairly well versed on what we do with the air staff at the Pentagon.”

During her 30-plus years in the Air Force, Fedder has served in many capacities and positions of command. It is something that she takes very seriously in the true form of a military person in a leadership role.

“I have been a commander five times,” said Fedder. “That is a level of distinction that all branches of service recognize, as with any command position, some specific authorities are granted. It typically comes after you have been in the service for about 10 years and when you usually are at the grade of ranks, and for us that would be the major level.

“When you get to the point where you can become a commander, those are the positions that can offer the greatest growth both personally and professionally. To be a commander is to have that responsibility for young men and women not just on what they do to support the mission, but to help them in their professional development to grow up to do bigger and better things in the services.”

Fedder said that she still has some professional goals she would like to achieve before she ends her career in about three years. One of those is to serve more in a joint community of military services in the Pentagon.

“I have had one tour in the joint community when I was air base commander at Lajes Air Base in Azores, Portugal,” said Fedder. “I have not served in a joint billet in the Pentagon where I am part of a organization and not just the Air Force.

“The job in the Azores was a great job as it was a wing command billet. I was the senior U.S. military person in the entire region of the Azores. It was a dynamic mission.”

While she was in that position it was a common practice for planes destined for Iraq to stop for refueling at her air base. On one of those occasions she spotted a congressman leaving the plane that looked very familiar.

“Surprising enough, I am out there and (former) Congressman (Pete) Hoekstra got off the airplane,” said Fedder. “Those are the kind of surprises you get serving all over the world.”

Fedder still considers Manistee as her home town and she approached Hoekstra and told him he was her representative. It was the first of several visits Hoekstra had with Fedder when taking tours of Iraq. In a visit to the Manistee News Advocate after the first trip, Hoekstra said he was very impressed with Fedder, and felt she had a great future in the Air Force.

One thing that Fedder is adamant about is her strong feelings about Manistee which she clearly states is her “hometown.”

“I consider Manistee my home and I am a resident of Manistee,” said Fedder. “I lived there from the time I was in fifth grade when we moved to Manistee when my Dad went to Vietnam.

“We moved around a lot when my Dad was in the Army and I guess I just appreciated that you can move around a lot and still have a hometown like I do in Manistee,” said Fedder. “I had the best of both worlds as there are benefits to moving around, but growing up in a town like Manistee and the friends and family I have there are still the connection to my hometown.”

She pointed out that, in today’s high-tech world of internet, e-mail and Facebook, it is much easier for people in the military to stay in touch with family and friends.

Military service also plays a very big role in both the lives of her and her husband, Chuck, who is retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service. Their son, Adam, graduated from the University of Michigan R.O.T.C. program and is now a second lieutenant in the Air Force.

“My sister, Teresa, also served 20 years in the service and is now back living in Manistee,” said Fedder.  My husband’s family has a lot of military in it as his Dad was in the Army Air Corps in World War II and was a P.O.W. (prisoner of war). His brother is in the Air Force and a nephew is in R.O.T.C.”

Fedder said that, although her family has a long history of military life, it is a tradition that can be started with anyone. She said joining the military is a step they will not regret and will help them grow as a person whether they stay in for 30 years and earn three stars as a general or spend four years in uniform as an airman.

“I meet a lot of airmen who are the first in their family to serve, and it is a good trend for them to start,” said Fedder.

Something that is obvious is that, throughout her career, Fedder has followed the core values of the Air Force such as “integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.” It is a pretty good path to follow and one that has turned a small town girl from Manistee into a very respected member of the United States Air Force.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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