Michigan ANG officer leads through lens of enlisted experience
By Staff Sgt. Bethany Rizor, 110th Wing
/ Published April 28, 2021
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- Reflections of colors and images glimmer in her eyes as if the gears in her brain are wrenching out innovative ideas at light speed. U.S. Air Force Capt. Danielle “Dani” Pavone’s endeavor to live an intentional life while setting a positive example is the personification of an exceptional Michigan Air National Guard officer and Airman.
Following graduation from Indiana University, Dani Pavone faced challenges in search of a fulfilling career. Becoming an officer in the military fit her mindset. With a two-year waitlist for the Air Force officer corps, she joined the enlisted ranks as an imagery analyst stationed at Beale Air Force Base, California.
“I wanted to do something meaningful and something with a higher purpose,” she said. “So I decided to join the military.”
As an intelligence analyst, Pavone monitored the MQ-9 Reaper's video feed, interpreting information to the pilot and sensor operator. While a pilot operates the aircraft, the sensor operator controls the camera. Distributed ground system operators and mission intelligence coordinators handle the information collected by the aircraft. The mission itself takes a team to accomplish.
“There are so many moving pieces to the mission,” she said. “The responsibility does not just fall on one individual, the team relies on each other to be successful.” Excelling in the enlisted ranks, she quickly grew a passion for the mission and serving her nation.
“I loved everything about it. I fell in love with the job, I fell in love with the mission,” said Dani Pavone., “I just really tried to thrive in my career as much as I could and began looking for opportunities for growth.”
While at Beale AFB, U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jason Hintz, now the 110th Operations Group deputy superintendent, hand-selected Dani over 800 other enlisted Airmen for the opportunity to design programs and courses as a Special Operations Forces full-motion video instructor.
“Her acute attention to detail and tenacious attitude resulted in a program that is used across the intelligence community, military-wide, and improved the actionable intelligence needed for Tier 1 Special Operation Forces,” said Hintz.
Nearing the end of her enlistment, Dani continued to explore her goal of becoming an officer. An opportunity at the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base presented itself and without hesitation, Pavone began the process to become an officer in the Michigan Air National Guard as a remote piloted aircraft (RPA) pilot.
“I think being an enlisted Airman was an important step in my path of becoming an officer,” she said. “I just felt like there was more opportunity as an officer to be in a leadership role to make changes and to help others further their careers.”
Dani Pavone's position as an intelligence analyst gave her insider knowledge of the mission capabilities and an understanding of the expectations she would need to meet as an RPA pilot.
“Capt. Pavone has established an exemplary record as an unassuming trailblazer as our first female RPA pilot,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Lucas Freudenburg, 110th Wing inspector general.
Becoming the first female RPA pilot to fly out of the Michigan Air National Guard was a happenstance for Dani Pavone, but she is was also responsible for helping to bring the MQ-9 mission to Northern Strike, a major National Guard-sponsored exercise.
Through her passion for instructing and experience building programs, Dani Pavone spearheaded the 110th Operations Group awards program to recognize the progress and advancement of her fellow team members.
“Dani is always looking at ways to improve the organization and take care of those around her,” said Hintz. “She continuously promotes a progressive learning environment while she pushes to recognize the accomplishments of her peers.”
Unwavering commitment to her goals and professional development has led Pavone to multiple positions in the 110th Wing, but having enlisted experience prior to becoming an officer gives Dani Pavone an advantageous perspective.
“I am grateful to have the opportunity to work alongside Capt. Pavone and I do not doubt that her continued commitment to excellence will have a vital impact on my leadership goals as well as the team's personal and professional growth,” said Freudenburg.
Her ability to manage an array of duties and tasks filters to home life as well. During the pandemic, she gave birth to her and her wife's first child, adding motherhood to her list of titles and accomplishments.
“The fact that she can do it all, no matter how stressful and with a smile on her face is something not seen in many others,” said Dani’s wife, U.S. Air Force Maj. Nicole Pavone, 172nd Attack Squadron assistant director of operations.
Dani Pavone's accomplishments hold the weight of a lifelong military career, which she has accomplished in a mere 11 years so far. But her infectious personality and humble approach attract the respect and dignity of everyone she encounters.
“She has the ability to connect with brand new Airmen right out of basic training through the officer ranks,” said Nicole Pavone. “No matter what job she is asked to do or position she is asked to fill, she will give it everything she has while making people laugh along the way.”
Dani Pavone’s work ethic and personal values, a direct reflection of the Air Force core values, drive her successful career.
“I believe in earning respect through actions and letting those actions propel your career,” she said.