First Female Air Force Viper Commander Has Been Demoted After Only Two Weeks


Only two weeks after the Air Force promoted its first female commander to the F-16 Viper Demo Team, Captain Zoe Kotnik was reassigned due to a “loss of confidence” in her abilities.

On Tuesday, Col. Derek O’Malley, Commander of the 20th Fighter Wing, made the announcement of the sudden change on Facebook, according to Fox News.

“I removed Capt. Kotnik from her position as the commander of the Viper Demo team yesterday, because I lost confidence in her ability to lead the team,” Col. O’Malley wrote.

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“As good people like Capt. Kotnik make mistakes, I want them to have the opportunity to learn from them without being under public scrutiny, and to continue to be a part of this great service…. This will be a difficult time for Capt. Kotnik, but she’s surrounded by wingmen that will help her every step of the way,” the Col. added.

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Capt. Alannah Staver added that Capt. Kotnik has not been cashiered out of the service but will “will continue to serve in a non-supervisory role in the 20th Fighter Wing.”

As Fox News reported:

Kotnik’s appointment as the first female pilot to head the F-16 Viper demonstration team was heralded with much fanfare, and she assumed command on Jan. 29. It was not clear what could have happened in that short a time, and the Air Force would not comment beyond the initial announcement.

Oddly, some seemed to think that the announcement is more difficult because of the upcoming Marvel superhero movie.

“Suffice it to say that in a year when the Air Force is set to make a major media splash with the highly anticipated blockbuster action film ‘Captain Marvel,’ which stars Brie Larson as a superhero that has a fighter pilot past, axing its first female demo team lead is far from convenient,” noted The Drive, a website covering aviation and military news. “It’s not all that uncommon for the Air Force to remove people from command, but it is quite rare that something like this occurs after just a matter of days of taking up the new position.”

One would think this whole thing would be a bit of an embarrassment no matter how many movies are coming out.

It is also a bit odd that the Air Force did not say exactly why Capt. Kotnik faced that “loss of confidence.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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