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Nicole Malachowski

First Woman Thunderbird Pilot; Combat Veteran; Fighter Squadron Commander; White House Fellow And Adviser; And Indominable Spirit

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$15,000 - $25,000

Col. Nicole Malachowski, USAF (Ret.) defies stereotypes. Yes, she was a jet fighter pilot, but if you think you know her based on that, you’d be wrong. A leader, a combat veteran, the first woman pilot on the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, a White House Fellow, and an inductee into both the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame, Nicole’s distinguished 21- year Air Force career exceeded her wildest dreams. But the dream came to an end when a devastating tick-borne illness left her struggling greatly to speak or walk for almost nine months. An indomitable spirit, Nicole fought back against overwhelming odds and prevailed.

Drawing on stories from her career and personal life, Nicole inspires audiences to rethink the challenges they face every day. She urges them to go beyond resilience and become resurgent. Nicole empowers people with three key beliefs: failure and risk is the price of entry for achieving something great; sometimes you need to yield to overcome; and her personal mantra – “Nobody wants to lead a scripted life.”

Featured Videos

Who is Nicole Machowski?

Build Trust By Being Trustworthy

The Wingman Contract

Bio

A 21-year veteran of the United States Air Force, Colonel Nicole Malachowski (USAF, Ret.) wanted to fly military jets from the moment she saw them at her first air show when she was five years old. She achieved that goal – and then some. A leader, a combat veteran, the first woman pilot on the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, an instructor, a White House Fellow, and an inductee into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame, Nicole’s Air Force career exceeded her wildest dreams.

In her speeches, Nicole inspires audiences with lessons from her experience that can be tailored to meet program objectives. Nicole brings her experience to the stage and holds audiences spellbound with an easygoing authenticity of someone who’s achieved greatness. She’s been a member and leader of exceptional teams. She has faced overwhelming challenges and adversity and has come out on top. When Nicole’s distinguished military career was cut short by a neurological tick-borne illness that, at its worst, left her unable to walk safely or speak intelligibly, she overcame those challenges, as well.

While other high school students were practicing for their driver’s licenses, Nicole was accumulating flight time – she was sixteen years old when she took her first solo flight. While in high school, she joined the Civil Air Patrol and participated in Air Force Junior ROTC. Nicole’s professional story began when she earned her commission from the United States Air Force Academy in 1996. Following graduation, she attended Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) at Columbus AFB, MS and began her career as a pilot. Competitively selected to fly combat aircraft, she was among the first group of women to fly modern fighter aircraft. She served in combat as an F-15E Flight Commander, Evaluator, Instructor Pilot and Flight Lead. Over her 21-year career, Nicole achieved the rating of Command Pilot with over 2,300 flight hours in six different Air Force aircraft. She was also selected to fly as Thunderbird #3 with the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron – the first woman to fly on any Department of Defense military jet demonstration team. Colonel Malachowski has served as a mission ready fighter pilot in three operational F-15E fighter squadrons and has flown over 188 combat hours, including her proudest moment as a fighter pilot: leading the first fighter formation to provide security for Iraq’s historic democratic elections in 2005.

On the ground, Nicole was a White House Fellow, class of 2008-2009, where she served on the Presidential Transition Support Team (PTST) while assigned to the U.S. General Services Administration. She has served two high-level staff assignments at the Pentagon – one in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD P&R) as well as the Secretary of the Air Force Office of International Affairs (SAF/IA). She also served as the Executive Director of the White House’s national ‘Joining Forces’ initiative where she directly advised former First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden on all topics relating to service members, veterans, and military families to include employment, education, mental health, veterans’ homelessness and more.

Nicole’s operational F-15E assignments include two tours of duty at RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom as well as one operational assignment to Seymour Johnson AFB, NC. She has also served alongside the United States Army 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Red Cloud, Republic of Korea, as an Air Liaison Officer. During her second assignment to Seymour Johnson AFB, NC, she had the honor of commanding the 333rd Fighter Squadron, leading an elite cadre of F-15E Instructors in the training of the next generation of combat aviators. Further, she was responsible for resources totaling over $1.1B and the execution of a $119M annual flying hour program.

Nicole earned a Master of Arts, with honors, in National Security Policy from American Military University and a second Master of Arts, with highest distinction, in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. While there, she earned the Admiral Stephen B. Luce Award as the class honor graduate, the first Air Force officer in the history of the Naval War College to do so. Nicole has been recognized with several honors for her consistent contributions to community service. As Nicole continues to recover from her neurological tick-borne illness, she embraces any opportunity to educate others about her medical journey and gains energy from educating others about this growing epidemic.

Colonel Nicole Malachowski (USAF, Ret.) was born in Santa Maria, CA and graduated high school in Las Vegas, NV. She and her husband Paul have twin children; son Garrick and daughter Norah. Paul is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and former F-15E Evaluator Weapons Systems Officer.

Speech Topics

Using the aviation-based idea of an aircraft performance envelope as a metaphor, this elite fighter pilot and military leader will share inspiring personal stories and practical tools to ignite your team’s ability to reach beyond commonly-assumed limitations to achieve their maximum capabilities and maximum impact.


Leaders across every industry and experience level share one thing in common: To be successful they need to effectively navigate moments of self-doubt, master the role of a trustworthy team player, and embrace moments of personal and professional vulnerability. Pushing your own personal “performance envelope,” at work and in life, will empower you to bring your best every day, to accomplish as much as possible with your unique skillset, and to consistently perform to a standard of excellence as individual leaders and as elite teams.


This message is the powerful voice of experience, from a former Air Force fighter pilot who successfully blazed a trail into a male-dominated world, including being the first woman pilot to fly with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. She reminds audiences not to let others draw your boundaries, and to break tradition with grace and purpose. Relatable to men and women alike, Nicole offers actionable tools and real-word lessons about pursuing dreams, making choices, and living an unscripted life.


Everyone faces barriers, both personal and professional, that may appear to place limits on what’s possible. When people pursue only what is expected, accept cultural norms that hold them back, and view barriers that appear unsurmountable, their personal and professional lives become limited—scripted.The Breaking Barriers mindset allows you to see your obstacles and challenges as opportunities to grow and as a chance to reach new levels of personal and professional excellence.


Using the challenges and uncertainties of combat as a metaphor for several kinds of organizational challenges, this combat-tested fighter pilot explains how to make progress when uncertainty, unforeseeable events, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles threaten to stop the forward progress of your team.


“No war plan survives first contact with the enemy” is a truism. In the military, leaders must acknowledge and address the fog (things we can’t see, know, or predict) and friction (the forces which impede progress) of war. In such times, effective leadership is more crucial than ever. Through the lens of perspective, priorities and positive leadership, Nicole provides tools for leaders to use in times of crisis—or anytime—to keep their organizations successfully moving forward.


Having operated in high-tech fighter aircraft that can reach speeds of up to twice the speed of sound, Nicole breaks down how to move efficiently and effectively when your survival and relevance depends on being fast.


One popular pilot saying is “speed is life,” because without enough speed, an airplane is nothing more than an expensive rock. In the business world, especially when technology is involved, speed can be just as crucial. The organization that moves the fastest often realizes the most success. Nicole offers principles that keep any organization functioning smoothly, quickly and efficiently in times of calm and in times of turmoil.


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EDITOR’S CHOICE

  • “Thank you so much for an amazing and heartfelt presentation. Please know that I’m committed to letting everyone know how wonderful and inspiring you are. #yesyouarethatgood.”

  • “Nicole was exceptionally well received. She—truly—did a magnificent job. Connected with the audience, inspiring, thought-provoking, funny, real, open."

  • “…not only did she receive a standing ovation, but the line of attendees seeking to talk with her after the meeting was the longest I had ever seen at such an event – and she took the time to meet all of them.”

  • “Colonel Malachowski is an inspiring, authentic speaker and leader. She speaks from the heart as she tells a story of determination, grit, attention to details and service to others.”