Senior Leader Profile: Col. Kristen Nemish

  • Published
  • By Aimee Malone
  • Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center
Creating and fostering cohesive teams has been an important goal throughout the career of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center’s vice commander.

Col. Kristen Nemish has served in a variety of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) operations positions, including combat crew evaluator, wing emergency war order planner, and flight commander for two student squadrons. She was also the personal adviser on the nation’s nuclear war plan to the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt AFB, Nebraska; chief of Senior Leader Management and senior executive officer to the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana; and a senior Air Force fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico. She has also served as commander of the 10th Missile Squadron, Malmstrom AFB, and the 91st Operations Group, Minot AFB, North Dakota.

Every assignment has taught her something new, Nemish said.
“Every assignment I have had in my 20-plus years in the Air Force has had its highlights,” Nemish said. “I have had two opportunities to command. Command is a unique experience, and it is an honor for all of us who get to do it. But any job that forced me out of my comfort zone and to grow professionally and personally are the jobs that I really enjoyed.”
While her leadership style has changed throughout the years as she has gained more experience, Nemish said she has always considered herself a people-focused leader. She wants to help any team she is part of grow more efficient and achieve greater success.
“Since I've started my career, I've been part of a team, and I find that cohesive teams are the most successful,” she said. “Part of my job and responsibility is to help people grow into the professionals they want to be, whether it is here at AFNWC or somewhere else.”
As vice commander, Nemish serves in a variety of roles supporting the commander and the center, including working personnel actions, serving as a liaison between execution directorates and command, and assisting with ICBM-related projects due to her background in operations. However, she considers her role as a mentor and coach to be an extremely important and interesting aspect of her job.
“First and foremost, I want to be helpful,” she said. “I'm genuinely interested in people's careers and their goals. I'm generally interested in who people are and why they chose service as part of what they want to do with their life because everybody that works here is working in a service capacity. We're serving our nation.”
Another important aspect of her leadership philosophy is providing second chances and helping people learn from their errors.
“I strongly believe in second chances,” Nemish said. “I do not think that the Air Force should be a ‘one strike’ kind of Air Force. I think some of our best leaders have made mistakes early on in their careers that they grew from and shared with those around them.  They have grown into incredible leaders because of some of the mistakes that they have made early on, and I think younger Airmen should have the chance to learn from their mistakes, too.”
She said she has learned a great many lessons from both her mentors and teammates throughout the years, but one of the most important was learning to be flexible.
“Rarely is anything a yes-or-no or a black-or-white answer,” Nemish said. “Problems are complicated, and there are often different solutions to the same problem set. Learning to be flexible is one of the biggest lessons that I've learned in my career.”
She plans to continue to apply her leadership approach at AFNWC by working with each directorate to remove roadblocks and achieve the mission, ensuring our nation's most powerful weapon systems are never doubted, always feared.
“At the end of the day, what we really want is for people to be the best versions of themselves professionally in order to accomplish our mission,” she said.