WASHINGTON (Gray DC) Dr. Heather Wilson is now officially the 24th secretary of the Air Force after she was sworn in on Tuesday at the Pentagon.
She stepped down from her position as the president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology to serve in this new role.
The former congresswoman and college president got emotional, as she addressed friends, family and Air Force Academy classmates.
"Thank you to the airmen, who protect the freedoms we enjoy," Wilson said, wiping tears from her eyes. "You and your families represent the best of what it means to be an American."
As she did in her confirmation hearing testimony, Wilson spoke of the challenges the U.S. Military faces.
“We've got a lot of work to do," she said. "Under the guidance of Secretary of Defense Mattis, and with the support of the United States Congress, we will restore the readiness of the force, so that we can win any fight, any time, anywhere.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis praised Wilson's qualifications and leadership experience.
“If we wanted to do one thing to Webster's dictionary to define a patriot with no words, we could put up Heather Wilson's picture next to the word and we would explain what a patriot truly is," Mattis said to the crowd.
Mattis even read comments from faculty members at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, where Wilson most recently served as president.
"She was much more than a president to us, she was a role model, a friend to us all, and above all, an inspiration," Mattis said.
Wilson is the first Air Force Academy graduate to become secretary of the branch, something she acknowledged she doesn't take lightly.
"I know as airmen, you will do your duty," she said. "I will do my best to do my duty by all of you. God bless you all.”
Wilson is the Pentagon’s second Senate-confirmed political appointment of the Trump Administration. There are still 55 more positions to be filled.
The new secretary doesn't have much time to rest. She is scheduled to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.