After 30-year Air Force career, Yorkville woman continues to serve

Nancy Judge served in the U.S. Air Force for 30 years. Now she serves as board president for the Kendall County Veterans Assistance Commission.

Nancy Judge started her career in the U.S. Air Force loading nuclear weapons onto B-1B bombers and finished with the service’s highest enlisted rank of command chief master sergeant.

In between, Judge served on air bases across the U.S. and overseas, where she was instrumental in training airmen and carrying out a multitude of leadership duties.

“I loved every minute of it and would do it again,” Judge said.

Judge grew up in suburban Northlake and graduated from West Leyden High School in 1983.

She then attended Rockford University for a couple of years where she played volleyball, basketball and softball, but was not focused on her studies, she said.

“I needed a job,” Judge said, and met with an Air Force recruiter.

“It just appealed to me,” Judge said. “It was a practical thing.”

Judge enlisted in 1985, and after basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas found herself training to be an aircraft armament system specialist at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado.

First it was B-52s, but before long Judge was loading nuclear bombs on B-1Bs at Dyess Air Force Base, in Abilene, Texas, where she was a squadron lead crew member, as her leadership talents were already being recognized.

By 1989, Judge was back where she started at Lackland in San Antonio, but now as a military training instructor.

“I absolutely loved that job,” Judge said. “I took great satisfaction in taking civilians and turning them into airmen. I trained women and men and six weeks later they had the tools they needed to succeed.”

A few years later she was serving nearby at another San Antonio base as an airman leadership school instructor.

Then it was brief stints at an Air Force base in Florida and an Army base in South Korea, as Judge developed skills in communications and technical support.

Then Judge was once again back at Lackland, and once again with more responsibility, in what was becoming a pattern.

This time Judge was serving as a training superintendent and was finding she liked the Air Force more and more.

“It fit me,” Judge said. “I liked the structure and walking into a room and knowing who’s in charge.”

Judge had also found that she was an effective leader.

“You have to motivate and inspire people to do a good job,” Judge said.

Judge returned to South Korea in 2009 as superintendent of the 8th Mission Support Group at Kunsan Air Base, before going back yet again to Lackland as superintendent of the Cyber Operations Center.

At Kunsan, Judge handled everything from communications and personnel to security and contracting, all to service a fleet of F-16 fighters.

“We made sure they were ready to go,” Judge said. “We defended the base and were ready to accept follow-on forces.”

After her cyber operations assignment at Lackland, Judge was sent to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey in 2011.

“That was the best job I had in the Air Force,” Judge said. She served as the command chief master sergeant of the 39th Air Base Wing.

A big part of her job was keeping officers in command informed of any issues that might affect enlisted morale, she said.

“All the commanders I worked with were top-notch,” Judge said.

Judge ended her career where it started. Her last assignment was as superintendent of a support squadron. In 2015, reached the 30-year limit and retired from the Air Force.

“I haven’t worked a day since,” she said.

But the call to serve has a habit of finding leadership talent.

After retiring, Judge moved to Yorkville to be close to family, joined the Yorkville American Legion Post 489 and started bowling in local leagues.

Then five years ago, Judge was asked to serve on the Veterans Assistance Commission of Kendall County. The organization helps veterans obtains Veterans Administration benefits.

Since 2022, Judge has served as the VAC’s board president, working with the board’s other nine members to oversee the commission and its annual budget.

“One of the biggest challenges is to get the word out to all of the veterans in the county,” Judge said.

Judge relished her military career.

“Everybody has their position in society,” Judge said. She views military service as “a higher calling” that requires sacrifice.

“I appreciate everybody who came before me,” Judge said. “The military is a reflection of society and its diversity is part of its strength. You don’t have all like-minded people.”

In 30 years, Judge saw a lot of change in the military, including the opening of combat roles for women.

“As I went along in my career, I saw more and more women in leadership roles,” Judge said.

Judge was one of them.