November 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nina Armagno grew up in suburban Chicago with a poster of Sally Ride in her bedroom and astronaut dreams on her mind. When her plans hit a roadblock, she became a two-star Air Force general who found her true calling—leading people in the service of our nation.

Maj. Gen. Armagno’s passion for hard work, leadership, and country has led her to the Omaha metro. Since June, she has been the director of plans and policy for the U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base near Bellevue.

Serving under Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Armagno and her joint staff work to deter and plan for nuclear war.

“It’s an overarching umbrella of deterrence and assurance,” Armagno says. “Implementing those plans is the last thing we want to do. The first thing we need to focus on is deterrence of adversaries and assurance of our allies.”

Such an awesome responsibility requires a thirst and capability for excellent leadership. Armagno sees her role as serving the nearly 500 people she commands, not the other way around.

“I envision myself more on the bottom of an upside-down pyramid with everyone else above me in importance,” she says. “I have example after example of coming into a leadership situation, assessing it, and then leading the team to heights that no one could imagine and no one could have done alone.”

Armagno’s leadership mantra is simple: It’s not all about you.

“If you are so busy thinking about yourself and your next career move, you are going to miss something pretty darn important. And you are going to miss it in the lives of your people and in your organization as a whole.”

From Astronaut Aspirations to Air Force General

Armagno recalls an early memory of watching the 1969 moon landing with her family. A love of the space program propelled the straight-A student to a degree from the Air Force Academy and a first assignment working with a ground-based radar crew. Weeks before the assignment, the Air Force disbanded its astronaut program. Armagno then pursued a master’s degree on her own dime with the thought of surrendering her commission and joining NASA.

Along the way in her Air Force life, however, she discovered her abilities as a leader.

“I fell in love with leading people,” she says. “When I first went to the Air Force, I was not 100 percent sure I would make the military a career. When I started falling in love with leading, then I knew I should stay.”

A Woman in a Man’s World

Aramagno is blunt about challenges women face moving up in the military. Women must prove themselves all of the time in ways most men don’t, she says.

“I believe it’s getting better, but it’s still something we need to be cognizant of,” she says. “I’ve felt like I’ve had to work harder than men, just to be honest. But it’s kind of paid off.”

She advises women who want to lead to “go for it.”

“As long as you care about people and get results, then your personal style or personality should take a backseat.”

Visit offutt.af.mil for more information.

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of B2B.

Maj. Gen. Nina Armango