A new generation of Air Force missileers

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Ieva Bytautaite
  • 20th Air Force Public Affairs

Being a college student is not easy. Juggling finances, busy class schedules and heaps of homework is often too much for many young students to handle. However, at the end of the four years of struggles and sleepless nights is a sweet reward – a college degree and a promise for a better future. For Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets and University of Wyoming students Leah Johnke and Victoria Pumilio, the future is bright and exciting, but the road there is not easy.

Johnke was raised in Cheyenne, Wyo. and was introduced to a military lifestyle early on.

My stepfather was a missile officer. Through the years he was my role model, living by the Air Force core values,” said Johnke. “I saw the kind of leader he was and wanted to be a part of the same branch of service that is a family.”

From the time she was a freshman in high school, Johnke knew she wanted to follow in her stepfather’s footsteps. Just like him, she was drawn to the missile operations (13N) career field and picked it as her first career choice.

“I am very excited to be an active duty officer in my career field of choice,” said Johnke. “I'm most looking forward to having the chance to not only serve but take care of the people who I serve with.”

Johnke is currently a senior, majoring in psychology and is set to graduate and commission later this year. Besides having the typical responsibilities of a college student, Johnke is also in charge of leading the cadet corps, planning training events, and ensuring her underclassmen are prepared to lead the detachment as they progress through cadet ranks.

Pumilio is a sophomore studying philosophy and is from Littleton, Colo. Although serving in the military wasn’t always what she wanted to do, she knew her heart belonged in serving her community.

“I’ve always known I wanted to serve either my country or community, said Pumilio. “Over the years, I’ve looked at the military, police force and fire departments. However, now that I’m doing AFROTC, I know for sure that this is where I belong.”


Pumilio is currently competing for a missile operations (13N) career field scholarship, which would cover tuition costs and other educational expenses.


Pumilio and Johnke both enjoy visits from active duty officers, especially other missile operators, and appreciate the opportunity to learn about what is it like to become an active duty officer.


During a visit to Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Detachment 940, 13 Feb. 2019, Maj. Gen. Fred Stoss, 20th Air Force commander, spent several hours speaking to cadets about missile operations and the importance of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles to national security. He also answered questions and gave the cadets advice from choosing assignments to keeping motivated.


“Don’t let your mistakes define you. Dust off and press on,” said Stoss.


Before concluding his speech, Stoss called the cadets “the greatest generation” and encouraged them to reach for things bigger than themselves.


“General Stoss’ visit was very insightful,” said Johnke. “And further bolstered my excitement to become a future Missile Operations Officer.”