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Profiles in Leadership Nominee - Cynthia Underwood

U.S. Air Force Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Underwood, the air transportation superintendent for the 96th Aerial Port Squadron, poses for a photo at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., Mar. 4, 2016. The memento flag details the date, time and place of her deployment, which she described as one of the highlights of her Air Force career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeff Walston/Released)

U.S. Air Force Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Underwood, the air transportation superintendent for the 96th Aerial Port Squadron, poses for a photo at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., Mar. 4, 2016. The memento flag details the date, time and place of her deployment, which she described as one of the highlights of her Air Force career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeff Walston/Released)

U.S. Air Force Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Underwood, the 96th Aerial Port Squadron superintendent, receives a quick briefing after a training exercise April 2, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. A 96 APS air transportation team is preparing to compete in the 2017 Port Dawg Challenge at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., and had just completed an Engines Running On-Load/Odd-Load of a C-130J Super Hercules as part of their groundwork for the event. The event was won by the 96 APS in 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeff Walston/Released)

U.S. Air Force Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Underwood, the 96th Aerial Port Squadron superintendent, receives a quick briefing after a training exercise April 2, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. A 96 APS air transportation team is preparing to compete in the 2017 Port Dawg Challenge at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., and had just completed an Engines Running On-Load/Odd-Load of a C-130J Super Hercules as part of their groundwork for the event. The event was won by the 96 APS in 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeff Walston/Released)

U.S. Air Force Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Underwood, superintendent, 96th Aerial Port Squadron, speaks to the gathering before the 4th Annual Port Dawg Memorial Run May 19, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Members of the 96th APS and the 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron joined each other for a 2.2 mile run honoring “Port Dawgs” across the Air Force who lost their lives in 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeff Walston/Released)

U.S. Air Force Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Underwood, superintendent, 96th Aerial Port Squadron, speaks to the gathering before the 4th Annual Port Dawg Memorial Run May 19, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Members of the 96th APS and the 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron joined each other for a 2.2 mile run honoring “Port Dawgs” across the Air Force who lost their lives in 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeff Walston/Released)

U.S. Air Force Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Underwood, superintendent, 96th Aerial Port Squadron, poses for a photo with Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Smith, senior non-commissioned officer for sustainment services, 913th Force Support Squadron, Aug. 21, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Smith will retire after 23 years of faithful military service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeff Walston/Released)

U.S. Air Force Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Underwood, superintendent, 96th Aerial Port Squadron, poses for a photo with Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Smith, senior non-commissioned officer for sustainment services, 913th Force Support Squadron, Aug. 21, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Smith will retire after 23 years of faithful military service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeff Walston/Released)

U.S. Air Force Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Underwood, the air transportation superintendent for the 96th Aerial Port Squadron, Lt. Col. Jason Sheridan, and Chief Master Sgt. Alvin Glover, operations superintendent, 96 APS, pose for a photo during Sheridan’s retirement ceremony at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., July 8, 2017. Sheridan, a former 96 APS commander, retired after 22 years of service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Casey Staheli/Released)

U.S. Air Force Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Underwood, the air transportation superintendent for the 96th Aerial Port Squadron, Lt. Col. Jason Sheridan, and Chief Master Sgt. Alvin Glover, operations superintendent, 96 APS, pose for a photo during Sheridan’s retirement ceremony at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., July 8, 2017. Sheridan, a former 96 APS commander, retired after 22 years of service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Casey Staheli/Released)

U.S. Air Force Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Underwood, superintendent, 96th Aerial Port Squadron, reflects on the career of Retired Chief Master Sgt. Todd Johnson, during his retirement ceremony at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., May 14, 2016. Johnson retired after 28 years of faithful service to his country in a room filled with family, friends and co-workers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeff Walston/Released)

U.S. Air Force Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Underwood, superintendent, 96th Aerial Port Squadron, reflects on the career of Retired Chief Master Sgt. Todd Johnson, during his retirement ceremony at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., May 14, 2016. Johnson retired after 28 years of faithful service to his country in a room filled with family, friends and co-workers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeff Walston/Released)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE --

Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Underwood is the 96th Aerial Port Squadron superintendent since 2005 and will retire after 33 years of active duty and Reserve service.  “While growing up in Del Rio, Texas, I would frequently see Airmen from Laughlin Air Force Base. The first thing I noticed was their uniforms and how they represented something bigger to me, something I wanted to be a part of,” said Underwood. After 10 years of active duty service she separated and worked in the private sector, but shortly returned to the Reserve. “I missed what I got from active duty, the feeling of patriotism, so I put the uniform back on,” she said.

In 1996, Underwood joined the Reserve and was assigned to the 96th APS at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.  She worked up the ranks and became the Superintendent, representing more than 125 Airmen and advocating for support, equipment and training while the unit was geographically separated. Once the 913th Airlift Group was activated at LRAFB, Underwood was instrumental in forming the parent organization, guiding the newly appointed leaders while still managing the 96th APS.

Her leadership is demonstrated by the unit winning two Port Dawg Challenges and consistently ranking top three. In the 2019 challenge, Underwood “released” the Port Dawg trophy during the opening ceremony, despite debilitating medical complications. 96 APS is renowned for their professionalism proven through praise and accomplishments received by the unit while deployed. As Underwood sets to retire for medical reasons, she leaves an enduring legacy as living proof that every position in the military is open to anyone who is willing to work hard to get there.

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