A Tradition of Firsts – Folmar and Nickson become first African American squadron commanders

  • Published
  • By Josh Weaver
  • 434 Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Firsts are kind of what we do at Grissom, from Lt. Col. Gus Grissom, who was the first American to fly in space twice. To Col. Summer Fields becoming the first female wing commander in 2023. Now, following tradition, the wing has another first: the first African American commanders of the 434th Security Forces Squadron and the 434th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

In a historic moment for the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Maj. Chadwick Nickson, commander of the 434th SFS, and Lt. Col. Tiffany Folmar, commander of the 434th LRS, became the first African American commanders of their respective squadrons.

“I will say it's one of many firsts for me,” said Folmar. “It seems like I come from a family of trailblazers. My mom was the first African American woman supervisor for General Motors in the 70’s.”

While both Nixon and Folmar recognize and appreciate their position, both were quick to recognize the ideals Grissom and the Air Force hold dear.

“At this base, uniqueness is appreciated, and effort and uniqueness are appreciated in the Air Force,” said Nickson. “I always say they hired me for a reason. So that has always allowed me to, regardless of rank, put my input out there and know that it's validated, because I got hired.”

Uniqueness and hard work set the stage for success, but openness, education, and conversation are the foundation for that stage allowing us to move to a place where things such as race, gender, ethnicity, or orientation hold no bearing. A place where you are judged by your character, and your love for your fellow Airman.

“I want everyone to feel comfortable having candid, open conversations,” said Folmar. At the end of the day, we are all humans and Airmen, and we all have a mission to do. If we can't do that mission, because we can't really have that conversation, I don't expect us to be able to be successful fighting our adversaries.”

The 434th Air Refueling Wing is proud to have Maj. Nickson and Lt. Col. Folmar as part of our leadership team and hope that, whether it’s the first American to venture into space twice, the first female wing commander, or the first African American squadron commanders, Grissom will always embrace diversity and judge our Airmen by who they are and what they bring to the table, and nothing else.