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From Air to Space, Captain Victoria Ponder Blazes a Path

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ryan Quijas
  • Space Launch Delta 30 Public Affairs

The road to success isn’t nearly as easy as people make it look. Sometimes the road has yet to be paved by someone who dared to take the leap, to go the extra mile.

 U.S. Space Force Capt. Victoria Ponder is blazing that path and lighting it up for young women of color to pursue careers in air and space. In honor of Black History Month, she shared highlights from her military journey and the impact her career has had on raising her two daughters.

Growing up with a submariner father, Ponder was no stranger to military life. Early on, she had dreams of becoming an Air Force officer.

After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degree in human resources, as well as a bachelor’s in program management, she applied for the Air Force’s Officer Training School (OTS).

“I still remember the day that I received the phone call signifying my acceptance into the Air Force,” said Ponder. “My dream job was acquisitions, and one of my biggest accomplishments was getting picked up for it.”

Her hard work paid off. She joined the military in 2018, attending OTS at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Following OTS, she was assigned to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, where she worked with the KC-135 tanker aircraft and led many million-dollar acquisition programs.

“I feel like people come into your life for a reason, and each person can and will bring something different,” said Ponder. “When I first started working with the KC-135, I wasn’t familiar with the airframe or a lot of the terminology. I asked questions and sought out more experienced people in the unit for guidance and advice, and built strong relationships with them.”

During her tenure, Ponder was also the president of Tinker’s Logistics Officer Association, vice president of the Company Grade Officers’ Council, held numerous leadership roles in Toastmasters, volunteered as a Girl Scouts troop leader, and tutored at Tinker AFB Elementary School.

Ponder credits the development of her leadership style to her mentors whom she worked with at Tinker. Through those foundational experiences she had with her superiors, she has been able to come into her own as a leader. This has proven helpful, she said, as she transitioned not only career fields, but military branches.

As her time at Tinker came to an end, Ponder decided that it was time to take her career down a different path, joining the U.S. Space Force.

“I was not only accepted into the Space Force, but also into a career-broadening program for space operations, and that’s actually how I ended up here at Vandenberg.” said Ponder.

Ponder currently serves as a flight commander in the 2nd Range Operations Squadron.

 “Leading a flight is an amazing opportunity,” said Ponder. “I have a servant leadership style and being a flight commander allows me the chance to foster leadership within my team, while also hopefully being a mentor to them.”

Also, as a woman of color, and in honor of Black History Month, Ponder reflected on the month’s symbolism. She recognizes the differences in opportunities she has had during her lifetime, compared to the women of color who came before her, especially her grandmother.

“Women of color have long fought to overcome unique challenges when it comes to employment, education, and equality,” said Ponder. “Barriers to career success that stand in the way of women of color create endurance, tenacity and determination to be the best that they can be.”

Ponder, who is the mother of two daughters, celebrates year-round with her partner Opeyemi, and her mother Bernadette, the contributions African Americans have made.

 “Black History Month is a celebration period of African-American history,” said Ponder. “It is a time for all Americans to celebrate, appreciate, and acknowledge the contributions of African Americans.”

Ponder also credits her mother, who lives with her and watches her children when she is at work.

“Nothing that I’ve done happens without my mother,” said Ponder. “Whether it’s here at Vandenberg or at Tinker, she’s always been there to support me.”

Ponder also believes in teaching her daughters that there are actionable ways to be the best at whatever path they decide to go down themselves. She nurtures and manifests confidence in her daughters every day.

“I want to let them know that they can achieve and aspire to be whatever their hearts desire,” said Ponder. “For as long as they work hard, they can achieve their goal despite the challenges they may face. If they want to be an engineer or astronaut like Mae Jemison, a poet like Maya Angelou, or even a singer like Beyonce, it can be achieved!”