Spencer native Michelle Johnson will be among four Iowans featured when "Iowa Sports Heroes" airs on KCAU Channel 9 Tuesday evening.
Johnson will join Brenda Fresem, Jeremy Hellickson and Paul Rhoads on the program recognizing great athletes and individuals in the Hawkeye state.
The show is set to debut from 7-8 p.m. Tuesday, on the Sioux City ABC affiliate; and then repeat from 10:35-11;35 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26, on the same channel.
Thompson noted Johnson's portion of the program is the longest segment of the show and as such had to be broken into two parts. Thompson had previously met Johnson through a mutual friend, E. Wayne Cooley, former director of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, and she was a natural for the program.
"Wayne Cooley absolutely loved her as a person and what she has accomplished," Thompson explained. "I went to the Internet and glanced at her career and I thought, 'holy moly.'"
Major General Michelle D. Johnson, a graduate of Spencer High School, is currently the NATO Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Intelligence with all 28 NATO nations having representatives who report to her at Shape Headquarters outside Brussels, Belgium.
While at Spencer, she was a star in basketball and in track as a hurdler. She received the IGHSAU 'First Lady Award' in 1986. Today she is one of most accomplished women in military history.
After an outstanding high school and college career in sports and scholastics, including a superb four years at the Air Force Academy, she became the first female in history at any of the three major national academies to be selected as Air Wing Commander.
She earned a Rhodes scholarship and went on to Cambridge, England where she not only excelled scholastically; but also in sports where her competitive sports instincts found her trying out for crew. She made the eight-athlete team along with seven males. Her educational background includes MIT, Army War College, Harvard, various Air Force command posts and the Pentagon, plus others.
Major-General Johnson's active military career has spanned 19 years in flying and instructing both in the United States and overseas and in demanding command posts both on the ground and in the air. In addition, she served as Air Force Aide to Presidents Clinton and Bush at the White House in 1992 - 1994; Director Strategy, Policy, Programs and Logistics U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.
Thompson said her interview provides the bookends to the show.
"It has two segments to it," Thompson said of Johnson's interview. "It's the lead off and it's the anchor. Both are rather lengthy. The mere fact we're putting her in the opening position and anchor position should say something."
Her education and sports history are the primary focus of the opening segment and she concludes the show talking about her career and influences.
"What she says about Spencer school, her love of sports when she was at Spencer, and the teachers who worked at helping her become prepared for college," Thompson marveled, "she gave kudos to the school."
Thompson noted conversations about how she chose to enter the Air Force Academy, the value of mentoring in her life, and the valuable lessons she gained by listening to wise advice will entertain and inform viewers.
"Hers were not goals, but instead a mindset to be just as good as she could possibly be in the job she had at that time," Thompson said.
Attempts to reach Johnson in Belgium were unsuccessful.