Lieutenant Colonel Angelina Maguinness

BIO: Lieutenant Colonel Angelina Maguinness graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Political Science, and was commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1999. As a career Intelligence Officer, she led in a variety of analytical, targeting, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance operations and joint unit positions at the squadron, Joint Task Force, and Combatant Command levels.

Lieutenant Colonel Maguinness received a Master of Arts, Military Studies – Air Warfare with Honors from the American Military University, a Master of Military Studies with Distinction from the Marine Corps University, a Master of Philosophy in Military Strategy from the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies in Virginia.

She married Colonel (Retired) Mark A. Cooter and has one daughter, Aidan and two step-daughters, Brittany and Jaclyn.

Lean In Dayton: Tell us a little about you- your background and your most recent role or occupation.
Angelina Maguinness: I am the Commander of the Measurement and Signature Intelligence Analysis Squadron. The squadron provides timely and relevant processing, exploitation, dissemination, and integration of radar and electro-optical data to characterize weapons systems in support of enabling U.S. military operations, national policymaking, US weapons system acquisition, and all-source intelligence community assessments.  I am responsible for 207 military, civilian, and contractor Airmen using 37 sensors worldwide to create intelligence. 

My job most closely resembles a Chief Executive Officer of a small- to a medium-sized firm with a $38M annual budget. There is no true civilian equivalent to the job of "Commander", with its inherent authority and responsibility.

Lean In Dayton:  What career and/or academic achievement are you the proudest of?

Angelina Maguinness: My most significant professional accomplishment has been the leadership I have brought to every assignment in my Air Force career.  Each assignment varied widely from the last, requiring me to learn and adapt rapidly to new personalities, mission sets, processes, and opportunities.  I am energized by people, learning new skills, and leading teams.  In every leadership opportunity, I reinforced early lessons – lead with humility, remain approachable, and seek to always be credible.

In 2007, after spending the beginning of my career in Air Force flying units, I was thrust into the joint special operations arena, an environment in which I had no experience.  On the surface, I did not fit: female officer among the hyper-masculine special operations personnel…the intelligence professional among snake-eating operators…Airman among mostly soldiers.  The situation required I jump out of my comfort zone.  I asked a lot of questions.  I learned quickly and soon demonstrated my value to my teammates and superiors.  Our director assigned me to be his Chief of Staff within three months of arriving at the unit.  He empowered me as a Captain to run his staff of Lieutenant Colonels, Majors, and interagency civilians in accomplishing operational planning for worldwide counterterror operations.  Being humble enough to know what I didn’t know and immediately seeking knowledge to bridge those gaps was key to my successful leadership of more senior officers in special operations.   

Later in 2011, I deployed as an Air Force Targeting Center Liaison Officer to the 603rd / 617th Combined Air Operations Center for Operation ODYSSEY DAWN.  As a Major, I was more senior than many of the Airmen I engaged and rank initially appeared to be an obstacle.  I continued being friendly and open to ensure I built the right team to drive the targeting process.  The relationships I built in those initial days would prove essential once ODYSSEY DAWN kicked off.  As impending conflict loomed ever closer, the division chief did not have a plan for Battle Damage Assessment and he tasked me with developing a concept of operations.  While I had recently attended the Joint Targeting Staff Course, I did not have any operational targeting experience, much less any experience planning or performing Battle Damage Assessment.  With the short timeline, I brought the team together to build our plan.  After all, players made few minor tweaks and approved the plan, the Battle Damage Assessment Concept of Operations was ready just in time for combat operations.

When air assets struck the first targets on 19 March, I immediately put the Battle Damage Assessment plan into action… “the plan never survives first contact with the enemy.”  I spent the first two days answering phone calls from upset senior officers who believed we should be putting the assessments out much faster than we were.  Since we had a game plan and built solid relationships early, we were able to honestly discuss problems and make adjustments on the fly, producing timely and relevant Battle Damage Assessment.  I learned the importance of remaining approachable to build and maintain the necessary relationships to make the plan work.  I am amazed by what we accomplished from a hastily thrown together plan led by someone without a clue of what really should be done.  I am most proud of how the team adapted and executed together.

A few years later in 2014, I was selected to take command of the Measurement and Signature Intelligence Analysis Squadron.  While I was thrilled at the opportunity, I was also terrified.  I believed my credibility as the unit’s leader would be questionable at best because the vast majority of Airmen in my new unit were engineers…and I was not.  Moreover, as a Squadron Commander, the expectation was that I would be able to credibly represent and advocate for my Airmen and our mission.  Like my initial experience in special operations seven years earlier, I understood that I needed to be a humble leader who asked questions and learned as quickly as possible.  Further, I ensured my Airmen understood I was a human – not the “Commander”, a Lieutenant Colonel senior officer, or the boss.  While I was all of those things, in order to build effective relationships, people must see a real person beneath all of the pomp and circumstance, the titles, and the presumed power.  As my Airmen got to know me, they became more comfortable in approaching me and they taught me about their highly technical mission.  I learned and became credible…certainly not an expert, but more than capable of advocating for my Airmen and my mission.
I believe my leadership qualities are what distinguish me.  I have demonstrated the consistent ability to adapt to new environments, build strong teams, and accomplish the most difficult and complex missions.  I strive always to be humble, approachable, and credible; this combination enables me to effectively lead any group to accomplish anything.

Special awards and recognitions:

Bronze Star
Defense Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Force Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters
Army Commendation Medal
Joint Service Achievement Medal
Air Force Achievement Medal

2005 United States Air Force Weapons School Robbie Risner Award Nominee, 20th Fighter Wing
2005 Woman of the Year, 20th Operations Group
2005 Company Grade Officer of the Quarter (three-quarters), 20th Operations Group
2005 Company Grade Officer of the Year, 20th Operations Group
2006 Air Force Intelligence Awards Program Outstanding Company Grade Officer of the Year, 20th Fighter Wing
2006 Woman of the Year, 20th Operations Group
2008 Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Awards Program Major General John S. Patton Outstanding Company Grade Officer of the Year, US Special Operations Command
2011 Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Awards Program Field Grade Officer of the Year, Air Combat Command

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