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NEWS | Feb. 7, 2014

Joint Base Charleston Airman SOARs

By Airman 1st Class Sydney Manning Joint Base Charleston public affairs

If you ever wanted to have a meeting with, or speak to the 628th Air Base Wing command chief, you've probably met Staff Sgt. Olivia Lion. As the 628th ABW command chief's executive assistant, she is the gatekeeper to the wing's senior enlisted leader ... but not for much longer. Lion was recently accepted into the Scholarships for Outstanding Airmen to ROTC program.

SOAR offers Air Force personnel the opportunity to earn a commission as an Air Force ROTC cadet. Airmen accepted into the program separate from the Air Force for a period of two to four years in order to pursue a bachelor's degree at an approved university with an ROTC program. Upon graduation, they are commissioned as second lieutenants and must fulfill a four-year obligation on active duty and four years in the Reserves.

As the executive assistant to the command chief, Lion's primary responsibilities are making sure the command chief is able to maintain his schedule and keep him on track ... ensuring he is able to efficiently handle the challenges of his office. Lion also runs several programs for the wing including promotion ceremonies, quarterly awards, Below the Zone boards and scheduling squadrons for retreat.

Lion attended college at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, but left school during her freshman year. Exploring her options, she decided to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather who had been in the Air Force, first as an enlisted Airman, and later as an officer. She planned on becoming a dental hygienist, but while she was waiting to ship out to Basic Military Training, a Security Forces job came along and she took it instead, leaving for BMT in March 2008.

It was at her first assignment at RAF Lakenheath, England, when Lion discovered the SOAR Program.

"My friend told me about the program. She had already been accepted," said Lion. "At the time, I was too close to my PCS date and moving to Charleston, so I couldn't apply right away.

"But, it became my goal to get in. I was going to follow in my grandfather's footsteps."

Airmen who apply for the SOAR program compete against other Airmen for one of 54 spots Air Force-wide. Lion was awarded one of eight slots available to Air Mobility Command. For Lion, SOAR was away to stay in the military and make the most out of her career.

Lion sent in her application in Sept. 2013. After almost four months of waiting, she finally received the news she'd been waiting for: she was in.

"It was unreal," said Lion. "It was such a long wait ... but it felt like my hard work had finally paid off."

Chief Master Sgt. Mark Bronson, 628th ABW command chief says the first word that comes to his mind when he thinks about Staff Sgt. Lion is "professional."

"To me, she's someone who lives the core values and works really hard and she's been rewarded for it," said Bronson. "It's not a secret that putting your best in everything you do and being professional is the surest way to be successful in the Air Force."

Lion will separate from the Air Force in August 2014. Starting in September, she will attend The Citadel to earn her bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice.

To find out more about the SOAR program, go to or call your base education office at 843-963-4575.