In its 102-year history, no African American had been promoted to the rank of colonel in the 147th Attack Wing in the Air Force. At least not until Marshall’s own Lieutenant Colonel Shaunte Y. Cooper.
Lt. Col. Cooper was promoted to the rank of Colonel in a Jan. 11 ceremony at Ellington Field in Houston.
“It is a great honor to receive this promotion, especially considering that only 2 percent of Air Force officers achieve the rank of Colonel. Growing up in Marshall, never in my wildest dreams had I envisioned a military career, let alone a promotion of this nature,” Col. Cooper said. “Being in the Armed Forces has been life-changing because it has given me a greater love of country, allowed me to serve others and defend our great nation. I did not start out with a goal of becoming a Colonel, I simply always made sure I was prepared and did my job to the best of my ability.”
Cooper got a leg up into the military with a bachelor of arts degree with a double major in history and business administration from Wiley College in 1992. In 2015, she received her master of arts degree in professional development, graduating Summa Cum Laude, from Amberton University in Garland.
Col. Cooper’s military career started in 1989 when she joined the Texas Army National Guard. Cooper said she mainly originally joined the military to receive assistance with college tuition at Wiley College. She transitioned to the Texas Air National Guard in 1993 as an enlisted Airmen. In 1994, she was commissioned and became a personnel officer at the 136th Airlift Wing in Fort Worth.
She also earned her teaching certificate for Texas elementary education and taught fourth grade at John Neely Bryan Elementary School in Dallas.
In 1999, Col. Cooper’s leadership skills were recognized when she served as an assistant to the relocation officer for the successful relocation of the 136th Airlift Wing from Dallas to its current location in Fort Worth. She was praised for her determination to schedule and plan the effort, and high recognition was received on this project.
She then transitioned to the 147th Attack Wing in Houston and served as the director of personnel for a year in 2003-04, then as the Commander of Mission Support Flight from April 2004 – Nov. 2006, and went on to serve as the interim Mission Support Group Commander from May 2006 – Dec. 2006.
During her time with the 147th attack wing, she participated in the overseas missions of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom after 9/11 occurred.
Her federal military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Air Force Longevity, Armed Forces Reserves Medal, Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, AF Training Ribbon and the Army Service Ribbon.
Col. Cooper’s state military awards include the Lone Star Distinguished Service Medal, Texas Outstanding Service Medal, Texas Medal of Merit, Texas Governor’s Unit Citation and the Texas Adjutant General Individual Award.
Col. Cooper is the daughter of Melba Jones and the granddaughter of the late Lorenza Washington and Warreen Washington of Marshall. She has been married to Ramsey Cooper for 28 years and they are the proud parents of one daughter, Sydnie.
“My husband Ramsey and daughter Sydnie Nicole have made many sacrifices over the years for my career. They have been very understanding of the demands of military life and are the reasons why I feel purposeful and accomplished,” she said.
She said her family is extremely proud of her and have always been supportive of her career. One of the reasons Cooper has made her way to the top is due to the perseverance her mom, Melba, taught her.
“She showed me that hard work and determination are keys to success,” she said.
Her grandmother, Warreen, taught her about compassion, a characteristic Col. Cooper strives to emulate when it comes to mentoring others.
With her promotion, Col. Cooper is the Air National Guard Advisor to the Air Force Recruiting Service Commander at the Joint Base Randolph in San Antonio. She is responsible for directing the integrated Staff of the Air Force Recruiting Service. She represents the ANG on recruiting issues and is the primary point of contact for manpower and personnel actions.
“To be the first of anything is an honor. I am extremely humbled and proud to be the first African American to be promoted to the rank of Colonel at the 147th Attack Wing, Ellington Field in Houston in its 102-year history. This promotion is not just about me but serves as motivation for my family, friends, and other people from small towns, like Marshall to follow your dreams. My accomplishment is also a beacon to show that ceilings are still being broken today, and I am excited to be apart of the change,” Col. Cooper said.