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.
Virginia Beach, Va.
Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif.
2nd Range Operations Squadron
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. During 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 degrees in human resources, as well as a bachelor's degree in program management, she applied for the Air Force's Officer Training School.
I want to let them know that they can achieve and aspire to be whatever their hearts desire."
Space Force Capt. Victoria Ponder, speaking about her daughters
Air Force Achievements
"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 the Toastmasters club, volunteered as a Girl Scouts troop leader, and tutored at Tinker Air Force Base Elementary School.
Ponder credits the development of her leadership style to her mentors 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 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 [Space Force Base, California]." 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."
Twice a week, she likes to huddle with her flight crew to share key information and discuss team goals they want to achieve.
"I give the team an opportunity to share with each other," said Ponder. I also like to use this opportunity to go over messages that we receive from higher level leadership like the C-Notes [CSO Notice to Guardians], SSC [Space Systems Command] announcements and GADOT [Guardian Acquisition Development Orbital Transfer] Monthly messages."
Throughout her busy day, Ponder has meetings with the Company Grade Officers' Council to make sure they are meeting their goals and always makes herself available for her team at the 2nd Range Operations Squadron.
"As a flight commander, I want to be visible and accessible to my team," said Ponder. "In the morning, you can find me having one-on-one sessions with a team member, sitting in a mission brief, or walking around and talking to people. I can't lead from my office, so I like to get out there and make connections."
At the end of the duty day, she comes home to partner Opeyemi, daughters Flora and Giselle, and her mother, Bernadette, who watches the children while 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 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 them 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!"