Chattanooga, Tenn., native Lieutenant Colonel Dion Flynn, 42, realized her destiny when she joined the Air Force. Her father, who was an Air Force air traffic controller, named her after the call sign of one of the planes he watched over. Some of her friends told her that she shouldn’t join the service because she was a woman, but Flynn was undaunted and enrolled in Colorado’s United States Air Force Academy. Although the Academy’s high altitude initially threw her for a loop, she persevered and became the first African-American woman from her hometown to graduate from the prestigious institution in 1995.
Flynn’s first assignment was at New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force base, where she spent three years testing Air Force, Army and Navy weapon systems. While there, she also fulfilled her mother’s request that she jump out of a “perfectly good airplane.” It was there that Flynn learned how to be a true leader, managing both soldiers and civilian engineers to achieve her division’s objectives. Having fulfilled her active duty commitment, Flynn transferred to the Air Force Reserve Command and pursued opportunities in the private sector, including serving as the Governor of Arizona’s military advisor.
Even with her success in the private sector, Flynn has also maintained an active role in the military. She has acted as an unofficial advisor to incoming Air Force Academy students, helping young people acclimate to the challenges of basic training and take advantage of the unique opportunities that are afforded as part of the Air Force. Flynn was also part of the Air Force’s Legislative Fellowship in Washington, D.C. as a congressional affairs liaison. The Lt. Col. now serves as the Officer in Charge of the Air Force Reserve Outreach Program for the Air Force Reserve Policy Integration Division.
During her time in the service, Flynn met, married and had four children with a now retired Master Chief Sergeant. Although they were both proud to serve their country, deployments across the globe meant that Flynn and her husband did miss some important birthdays. The couple has kept their relationship strong by spending all the time they can together, even if that meant watching NFL games in a remote part of Korea. Flynn’s favorite player is Chicago Bears great Walter Payton, while the Master Chief is a die-hard New York Giants fan. Obviously, theirs is a love that knows no bounds.
On the subject of those who have served before her, Flynn is profoundly thankful. For her, being in the military has greatly enriched her life and she has nothing but gratitude for those who put their lives on the line to keep America safe. Flynn is also incredibly proud that she serves as inspiration for her children, as her father once inspired her. “My nine year old, just the other day, she told me ‘Mom, I want to serve in the military.’ I couldn’t ask for better than that. To know that I’m inspiring others, even within my own family, to continue to do those things to preserve our nation.”
Mario McKellop is a freelance writer who has covered the pop culture beat since 2010.