The first female pilot to lead the Air Force's F-16 Viper air demonstration squad housed at Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter was relieved of command Monday after just two weeks in charge.
The removal was outlined in a Facebook post Tuesday from Col. Derek O’Malley, commander of Shaw's 20th Fighter Wing, explaining he had "lost confidence" in Capt. Zoe Kotnik's ability to lead the team.
"I know that loss of confidence is a common response from the Air Force, whenever someone is removed from a command position, and I think it’s important to understand why we take this approach," he wrote.
"We have thousands of Airmen across our Air Force serving our country, and not one of them is perfect. As good people, like Capt. Kotnik make mistakes, I want them to have the opportunity to learn from them without being under public scrutiny, and to continue to be a part of this great service," he continued. "They’ll be better for the experience, and in turn, we’ll be better as an Air Force."
No specifics on what led to her removal were disclosed.
The Air Force announced the veteran pilot was taking over command on Jan. 29 with much fanfare, according to military publications that specialize in following Pentagon matters.
The Air Force Times reported Kotnik "graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2011, earned her wings in 2013, and has more than 1,000 flying hours in military aircraft."
"It was exciting to have the first female demo team pilot here at Shaw, but I’m also just as excited about the many other females that are serving with great distinction across our Air Force," O'Malley also wrote in his Facebook post. "I’m proud to serve with them, and I’m inspired by them. Even as I speak, another female pilot from the 20th Fighter Wing is flying combat missions in the Middle East."
The Viper Demonstration Team flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon and performs precision aerial maneuvers and demonstrations, according to the team's website.
The 2019 schedule begins March 30-31 with a performance over Key West, Fla.
Maj. John Waters, who led the team last season, has resumed command, O'Malley said.