Nicole Malachowski

Retired Air Force Colonel Nicole Malachowski holds a critical place in the history of women’s combat aviation. She was the first woman pilot selected for the U.S. Air Force “Thunderbirds” Air Demonstration Squadron, flying as Thunderbird #3 (Right Wing) from 2005 to 2007. Malachowski has flown over 188 combat hours, including her proudest moment as a fighter pilot: leading the first fighter formation to provide security for Iraq’s historic democratic elections in 2005. She also served alongside the United States Army 2nd Infantry Division in Korea as an Air Liaison Officer, coordinating airpower in a multi-national environment. Malachowski has noted that her highest career honor was commanding the 333rd Fighter Squadron, leading an elite cadre of F-15E Instructors.

Malachowski knew that she wanted to fly military jets from the moment she saw them at her first air show at the age of five. While in high school, she joined the Civil Air Patrol, participated in Air Force Junior ROTC, and—at 16 years old—embarked on her first solo flight. Malachowski earned her commission from the United States Air Force Academy in 1996. Following graduation, she attended Undergraduate Pilot Training and was competitively selected to fly the F-15E Strike Eagle, being was among the first group of women to fly modern fighter aircraft.

On the ground, Malachowski was a White House Fellow, class of 2008-2009, where she served on the Presidential Transition Support Team (PTST). She also served as the Executive Director of the White House’s national Joining Forces initiative where she directly advised former First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden on all topics relating to service members, veterans, and military families.

While studying at the U.S. Naval War College, Malachowski earned the Admiral Stephen B. Luce Award as the class honor graduate, the first Air Force officer in the history of the Naval War College to do so. She has been recognized with several honors for her consistent contributions to community service, and was inducted into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2008.

In addition to her military career, Malachowski is also committed to work focused on tick-borne diseases. As she continues to recover from a neurological tick-borne illness, she embraces any opportunity to educate others about this growing epidemic. She is on the Board of Directors at the LivLyme Foundation and is a Patient Advisory Board Member of The Dean Center for Tick Borne Illness.

Year Honored: 2019
Birth: 1974 -
Achievements: Government