US Air Force first lady Air National Guard director, a Davaoeña

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DAVAO CITY –— The people of Davao Oriental are proud of US Air Force Col. Leah Botona Boling’s recent promotion as the first lady director of the Air National Guard, who hails from their province. 

Boling who has served the US Air Force for 19 years currently sits as the Director of the Air Force Chaplain based in Hawaii but soon she will move to Washington DC as director of the ANG.

She is the first Asian to become a colonel in the Air Force.

Boling attended Mati City’s Immaculate Heart of Mary Academy for elementary school, Mati National Comprehensive High School for secondary school, and Holy Cross of Davao College for her bachelor’s degree in Customs Administration.

The Botona family of Davao Oriental.-Photo Courtesy: Eva Botona

Her family used to own a “carenderia” food store in Mati City.

She briefly worked at the Bureau of Customs in Cebu City before pursuing a master’s degree in divinity at the Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary in Baguio City.

She is a devout Baptist.

Since religious institutions in the country was not yet ready for a female minister, she applied as Chaplain of a military hospital in Hawaii where she was accepted.

She was promoted as Colonel in the US Air Force and Director of ANG, and will soon hold office at the ANG headquarters in Washington District of Columbia.

Col. Boling with the children of Zamboanga during the crisis

Col Boling was one of the Air Force personnel dispatched by the US government to join the Special Operations Task Force during the 2008 Zamboanga City crisis, where she personally interacted with the children affected by the war.

Being a woman leader in a man’s world was more difficult for her in the Air Force, she claimed, because people always look up to men, and being Asian added to the mix.

“Some of them questioning look like connect especially as an officer cause kadaghanan sa Filipino are enlisted ( majority of Filipinos are enlisted), you know the structure in the military. They have the enlisted and then the offices, so when I first showed up, I came, I still remember they look at me but I told myself, if you cannot recognize me it is not my issue, I need to show to them that I know what I am doing and I always do my best,” she added.

Col. Leah Botona Boling took her oath as full-pledge Col. before Brig, Gen. Dann Carlson on May 12, 2021.

“When I first reported to my wing, I told myself this is who I am, as long as I’m doing the best I can for the airmen, nobody can question me about my motivation and I also made a promise that if the people, the airmen, do not welcome me because I’s a woman and I’m Asian then that’s on them, I’m not gonna carry that burden because I have no control over that, their reaction their own issues,” she stressed.

Being a woman and an Asian was never a problem for her since she always gave it her all while dealing with the Airmen and every member of the Hawaii ANG, and she was always clear in everything she did.

On May 12, 2021, she was officially promoted to the rank of Lt. Col. in the US Air Force.

During the ceremony Brig. Gen. Dann Carlson cited “Col. Boling’s ability to lead and what she can offer for her next level” has been the brand of her leadership, as he added “The Air Force expects a lot from you. You have a lot to be proud of,” being the first Asian-American lady Colonel in the Air Force.

From the start, her husband Jeff, a retired member of the US Air Force has always been and will always be the ‘Wind Beneath Her wings’.

In her promotion ceremony, she said her husband “Made it easy for me to serve the Hawaii Air Force”.

Shekina, their only child, who recently received her Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration, has always been a part of her journey, she remarked.

She is very thankful for the support of her family and the airmen.

During the promotion, she even spoke cebuano as she thanked a relative who attended the momentous event of her life.-Editha Z. Caduaya

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