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Chief Master Sgt. Heidi Bunker makes history as first female 178th Wing Command Chief

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rachel Simones
  • 178th Wing

Chief Master Sgt. Heidi Bunker assumed her role as the 178th Wing’s first female command chief at Springfield Air National Guard Base, June 3.

“I think every race and gender should be represented in all ranks in the military,” said Bunker. “I think that the 178th took a step in that direction today.”

Bunker’s military career began when she enlisted in 1991 after attending college on a basketball scholarship.

“I just felt like I wanted to do more,” said Bunker, describing why she left her basketball college career behind.

When Bunker witnessed her friend’s active duty military adventures, she felt a sense of jealousy.

“Any time you feel jealous, it’s a sign of what you’re missing,” said Bunker. Bunker discussed her admiration of her friend’s adventures with her parents. Her father mentioned an old friend of his that happened to be a military recruiter at the 179th Air Wing in Mansfield, Ohio.

“Which job travels the most?” asked Bunker, when she met with the recruiter.

Her excitement for adventure lead her to enlist as an air transportation specialist.

“I traveled all over the world,” said Bunker. She mentioned Germany, Italy, Puerto Rico, Alaska and Hawaii as some of the destinations she was able to visit during her time with the 179th Air Wing.

After returning from her travelling experiences, Bunker decided to use the National Guard tuition benefits and she earned her bachelor’s degree at Ashland University.

Bunker served in a joint role with the Coast Guard after Hurricane Katrina. Her experience influenced her to want to extend her career in the Guard.

“I had my first opportunity to use the skills that I had learned through training and trips,” said Bunker. “It was a real-world, state-side mission.”

The experience serving after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina allowed her to see the direct impact that she could have on others through the military.

“It was that trip that hooked me for the rest of my career,” said Bunker.

Bunker was then offered a first sergeant position with the 179th Air Wing.

“It was the perfect fit for me,” Bunker said. Her role as a first sergeant helped her realize her passion for working with people.

“Helping people, serving people, putting people first,” were some of the aspects of being a first sergeant that allowed Bunker to choose her civilian career.

Shortly after earning her graduate degree in clinical counseling at Xavier University in 2009, Bunker was asked to travel again for the military, but this time to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

“That was one of the most developmental trips I have ever taken, and not just from a military standpoint,” said Bunker. Bunker explained that grew personally and professionally over the deployment as she served as a first sergeant for more than 300 service members.

In 2010, Bunker was the first female from the 179th Air Wing to win the First Sergeant of the Year for the entire Air National Guard.
“It was a really big honor for me,” said Bunker.

She served as a first sergeant throughout the 179th Air Wing’s change in mission. She also supported a joint mission with the Army in Afghanistan. These challenges allowed her to understand the resiliency of the Airmen she served with.

“They had even more capacity than they thought,” said Bunker. “Transition is really hard, but it produces something really special.”

Bunker’s vast experience working with people in the military and civilian sector allowed her to take on the role as the first female command chief of the 178th Wing.

 “Now people can say, ‘hey that girl can do it, and I can too,’” said Bunker.