Wisconsin Air National Guard's first female general officer retires

  • Published
  • By Maj. Scott Lieburn
  • Wisconsin National Guard
The first woman to serve in the rank of general in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, Brig. Gen. Margaret H. Bair retired on Sept. 30, after 32 years in uniform.

"General Bair would brighten every meeting and room she walked into," said Brig. Gen. John McCoy, commander of the Wisconsin Air National Guard, who presided over her official retirement ceremony. "She would make all of us smile and helped us realize that there is always a solution to every problem."

Bair joined the active duty Air Force in 1976, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant through direct appointment as a registered nurse. During her first five years of active duty she served as a nurse at Air Force base hospitals in Maryland, Japan and Arizona.

"She was a true traditional Guardsperson who worked in the civilian sector during her time in the Wisconsin National Guard," McCoy said. "She consistently came in to answer the call of duty time and time again."

Most recently, Bair served as the chief of staff for the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 2,300 men and women, including a headquarters staff in Madison and four major commands - 115th Fighter Wing, 128th Air Refueling Wing, 128th Air Control Squadron and the Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center.

In this role, she also directed the Headquarters Air Staff and served as principal advisor to the Wisconsin Air National Guard commander regarding the administration, operation, training, tactical employment, maintenance and supply of all Air National Guard units within the state.

Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, said it was an honor to serve with Bair.

"Peg and I served together at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, where she commanded the Medical Group, and at state headquarters over the past years," Dunbar said. "She is an officer of unquestioned character, integrity and vision. She is my friend and I will miss her. Peg departs after a distinguished career, leaving the Wisconsin Air National Guard at a pinnacle of readiness and quality."

When Bair initially joined the military she had only two goals in mind. "I wanted to be a flight nurse and have fun and travel," she said. As she progressed through the Air Force Reserve and the Montana Air National Guard, her new goal was to make the rank of lieutenant colonel and retire after 20 years. In the end, she retired as a one-star general.

Prior to joining Headquarters she served in the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee. She became the commander of the 128th Medical Squadron in January of 2000. In 2005, she assumed command of the 128th Medical Group.

In 2009, Bair was promoted to brigadier general. She was the first woman in the Wisconsin Air National Guard to be promoted to that rank.

While reflecting upon the legacy she would leave, Bair said, "We don't get here by ourselves. I have come to believe that the seeds of success are planted within each of us but it is the people around us that make those seeds grow." Referring to her family, friends and fellow service members in the audience, she said. "You have all helped me grow and have brought me to this point in my life."

With the new time found through her retirement she plans on doing a lot of traveling and skiing.

Bair is employed at Mercy Walworth Hospital and Medical Center and resides in Fontana, Wis.

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