A first for Lewiston native


LEWISTON – Col. Frances Auclair has never regretted her choice of careers with the Maine National Guard. The job has confronted her with new challenges almost daily, and she never falls into a tiresome routine.

“It fits my personality, let’s put that that way,” Auclair said Tuesday night. “It’s almost never the same thing twice.”

Next month, the 55-year-old Lewiston native and St. Dominic High School graduate will be officially pinned as the first female general officer of the Maine National Guard.

Auclair, vice commander of the 101st Air Refueling Wing, has been promoted to brigadier general. The pinning is more or less a formality – she has already assumed her new duties in Augusta as chief of staff for the Maine Air National Guard.

“It’s something I’ve been striving for and hoping it would come to fruition,” Auclair said.

She began her military career in 1972, when she enlisted in the Navy as a hospital corpsman. After four years of active duty, she returned to complete her bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern Maine.

Auclair gained her commission as a second lieutenant after her 1981 graduation from the Air National Guard Officer Training Program in Knoxville, Tenn. She has commanded and supervised units at all levels.

Roughly a year ago, Auclair knew that a general officer’s position would be opening up. In fact, two such positions were becoming available. The problem was, both were already spoken for so she expected to be left out of the promotion process.

“One guy decided to retire early and that opened up the door for me,” Auclair said.

In 2000, when she became the vice commander of the refueling wing known in military circles as “the Maineiacs,” Auclair became the first woman, outside of the Medical Corps, to be named second in command for a unit that was prepared to go to war.

Now, with the promotion, she again attains a rank that has been predominantly held by men. And Auclair is very aware of the distinction.

“It’s pretty special,” she said.

Maj. Gen. John Libby, Maine’s adjutant general, will conduct Auclair’s promotion ceremony on June 3 in Bangor.