Maxwell AFB’s first Black female commander ends post

Published: Jul. 29, 2022 at 5:03 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A historic period at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery came to an end Friday morning. The base’s first Black female commander left command.

Command changes every two years, and Col. Eries Mentzer led this base where every airman that wants to be an officer must go to.

Serving as the commander of Maxwell AFB was not the first experience Mentzer had in Montgomery.

“To be frank, Maxwell was something that I didn’t think I wanted to come back to,” she said.

But it was the story of Rosa Parks, who worked on Maxwell, that brought her back to the River Region.

“You might just say Maxwell opened my eyes up. It’s an alternative to the ugly policies of Jim Crow,” said Menzer. “That’s a quote in her book.”

Mentzer dedicated her leadership to social justice and to women like Parks, with two statues in her honor, and Romay Davis sitting with her when Davis received her congressional gold medal.

“I certainly wasn’t the first qualified woman to be able to lead the space, qualified Black woman, I was just the first to have the opportunity,” said Mentzer.

This is why Mentzer says when she sees room for changes she tries to make them happen, even getting the Air Force to change their uniform guidelines to allow hats with a mesh backing that makes it more breathable for hair that grows as it gets more humidity.

“If you’re closest to the problem, you’re close to the solution,” said Mentzer.

“She left it all on the field of play,” said the president of the Air University, Lt. Gen. Andrea Tullos.

Mentzer also left behind a partnership with Montgomery city and county. That includes a $65 million whitewater park that will be positioned next to the base.

“I think because of her familiarity with the community, she brought an additional passion to connect the Air Force base to the community,” said Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed.

“It’s going to be something that says that is the world’s greatest Air Force,” said Mentzer.

And Mentzer hopes people continue to remember her motto “just do right.”

According to a Maxwell base press release, Mentzer will be headed to Hurlbert Fields, Florida to command the soon-to-be established Special Operations Force Development Center. The center is under the Air Force Special Operational Command.

The new commander of Maxwell is Col. Ryan Richardson. Richardson was with the United States Air Forces in Europe, and the Air Force’s Africa director for manpower, personnel and services headquartered at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

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