RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
She climbs the four flights of metal stairs, traversing her way to the top floor of the Force Support Squadron. Reaching the top, she turns and looks out over the Enlisted Club parking lot, recalling memories of the festivals that are held there throughout the year.
“You see all those people out there in the parking lot, and you think about your team, the two to three months of work that went into planning, and the partnerships that had to be built to make them work,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Natosha Reed, 86th FSS commander. “Just to see the families out there with their smiles is amazing. It’s amazing to see what our team is able to accomplish and bring to the community.”
As she opens the door, she steps out of a cool wind and into a still hallway. The long corridor is lined with offices on both sides, each emitting the faint sound of fingers tapping on keyboards. She removes her military cover to reveal neatly-kept, short black hair. A smile moves across her face, and she begins to greet the occupants of each office and engage in conversations as she passes by.
“From the hourly and salary employees to the military members, she truly cares to know them,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Erica McCaghren, 86th FSS first sergeant. “She will stop and have a conversation with you, even if that means she’s going to be here until 6:30 or 7:00 at night answering emails. She will spend the 15 minutes in the hallway to talk to you because you have something on your mind.”
The commander continues to speak with her Airmen in the workplace. The smile on her face is contagious, and others begin to join in. The connection she makes with each person she encounters is unmistakable in her intent, admiring gaze.
For Reed, connectedness and service are what drive her and have made her an effective leader. She goes out of her way to positively influence the people around her, and does whatever she can to boost morale and set others up for success.
“Stepping into this role as a commander, especially here at Ramstein, has really been a blessing,” Reed said. “Just realizing that as a leader at this level you can be that positive drive, that positive influence in people’s lives, and recognize them and tell them ‘Job well done,’ that you really care about them, and ask them ‘What can I do as your commander to help you?’ To let people know that you really care, and you’re genuine about it, I think goes a long way.”
Reed, a Birmingham, Alabama native, enlisted in the Air Force right out of high school, and spent her first four-and-a-half years in Security Forces at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. She then crossed over into the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and completed her undergraduate degree at Troy University, Troy, Alabama, to commission as a personnel officer.
After 20 years in the Air Force, Reed has more than a few memorable moments. She has met former President Barack Obama, given closing remarks in front of 13 different African nations during a televised event at the end of a partnership-building mission in Burkina Faso, and had the opportunity to meet retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Leo Gray, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen.
“While I was at Air Command and Staff College, retired Lt. Col. Gray actually came to speak, and I was able to meet him, take some pictures with him and talk about his journey,” Reed said. “So when you talk about Black History, it’s remembering people like him that have paved the way for us. He was serving at a time where we still hadn’t gotten over segregation, and we were still fighting for civil rights. But he still served, and he didn’t know at that time that he was making history for black people and people of other races to come behind him. He was building that bridge for us.”
Other notable figures Reed has come across in her career include retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite J. Harris, the first African-American female general officer, and retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Stayce D. Harris, the first African-American female to achieve that rank.
These women have been a major influence and inspiration that encouraged me to move forward in my career, Reed said
The person who has inspired Reed the most, however, is her mother.
“I really appreciate the foundation that she built – that she instilled in me and my sisters,” Reed said. “The first thing is faith: faith in God and trust in God. Then kindness: treat people the way that you want to be treated. And then just doing the right thing. You know, I always say ‘if you do the right thing, the right thing will come back to you.’”
Reed has used this foundation to support the 86th FSS as a servant leader. She checks in on her Airmen and tries to be that positive influence in their lives.
“What stands out about her is how involved she is,” McCaghren said. “There’s not a thing that 86 FSS is doing that she doesn’t know about or hasn’t touched. That’s not to say she’s a micromanager, it’s just to say how much she cares. She wants to be involved with her people. She wants to let them know ‘I care and I support you.’ She wants everyone to enjoy their job. She wants to have fun, and for you to have fun too.”
Pausing for a moment to look down at the Airmen and families in the E-Club parking lot enjoying the festivals that her squadron has worked so hard to put on, Reed sees the purpose and motivation in her leadership.
“In this job there’s not one person in this community that we don’t touch in some form or fashion,” Reed said. “Whether you’re coming to the bazaar, Freedom Fest or Designer Bag Bingo, you’re coming to something that FSS is going to put their name on. When you think about morale and the high-ops tempo here, making people happy, seeing a smile on their face, and seeing that they’re happy and getting what they need from the services we can provide – that’s what really fuels me.”