Des Moines, Iowa --
The life of a wing executive officer is a fast paced and stressful one. While life may be additionally hard being a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan at a base filled with Hawkeyes and Cyclones, 1st Lt. Clarissa Atwell, 132d Wing executive officer, welcomes it all and enjoys the challenge every day brings.
Atwell wears many hats in her life from having been enlisted to officer and now a wife and mother. Being pulled in so many directions can be difficult and requires a person with tremendous drive and determination. Atwell embraces every new situation as a challenge to strive for perfection. Throughout all her roles in life, Atwell desires to be the best and give all of her effort to become so.
Atwell was inspired to join the military by her aunt, current Senior Master Sgt. Brenda Safranski, the 132d Force Support 1st Sgt. Safranski, who served in the United States Marine Corps at the time, encouraged Atwell to join the Iowa Air National Guard. She enlisted and joined the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, working in finance.
“I always knew she had a passion for serving people and strong leadership qualities,” said Safranski.
In 2013, Atwell transferred to the 132d Wing during the wing’s mission conversion and served in the newly formed 132d Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Group as a targeteer. After nearly two years in the ISRG, she made a career decision and decided to become an officer. Upon completion of the Air Force Officer Training School (AFOTS), she became the next wing executive officer as Col. Shawn Ford assumed command of the 132d Wing in 2016.
“I was amazed at the ease with which she was able to step into the role and have an impact,” said Ford.
As the wing execute officer, Atwell is in charge of running the day-to-day activities such as management of the senior officer's schedule, screening of documents or other products, and oversight of the senior officer's administrative support staff, freeing the commander to concentrate on strategy and planning the unit’s next move. The position with all its tight deadlines, complex schedules and long hours demands a highly driven and motivated person; something Atwell said she fully embraces.
“You have to be willing to go above and beyond,” said Atwell. “No matter what I’m doing, I want to give 110 percent.”
Work doesn’t end when the Atwell leaves base either. She and her husband Peter also have the task of raising their 1 year-old daughter Noelle, a job Atwell said is both rewarding and challenging.
“I like to be challenged, I never like to be bored,” said Atwell. “Being a wife and a mom is one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.
With all the rigors it takes to raise a child and be placed into a parental role, it could take a toll on an individual, but for Atwell it’s just the opposite. Atwell said it is very important to be able walk out the door and transition from the mindset of an executive officer to a spouse and parent. However,
“Being able to maintain a full time position, such as the wing execute officer, I believe helps me to be the best mom and the best wife I can be,” said Atwell. “Some days it’s easier, some days it’s not. But at the end of the day, I try my hardest to show that they are my number one priority.”
Atwell said she is constantly challenged and balancing priorities between being fully focused on the mission but also available for her family. Her ability to multitask and perform highly in each role has been a notable trait.
“The aspect that impresses me the most is her ability to raise her daughter while still executing her job at such a high level of competence,” said Ford.
Her hard work in and out of uniform would be much more difficult without the support of her husband Peter. Atwell said she wouldn’t be able to do her job without his full support. Their family often travels together when possible to be there for each other.
“He’s always been my biggest supporter and cheerleader,” said Atwell. “I’m very fortunate and blessed to have him by my side.”
With the support of her family and an intense work ethic, Atwell’s future looks set up for success.
“I have very high hopes that she will be extremely successful in her military career and won’t be surprised if she is sitting in my seat someday,” said Ford.