14 Modern Women Who Have Made Military History
The year of 1948 changed the course of history for women in the military. It was the year that President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act into law, and allowed women to serve as permanent members of the military. Prior to this law, female nurses were the only ones allowed to serve during peace time, and the remaining women who served honorably were expected to vacate their positions when wars came to a close.
We’ve come a long way since then; in 1970, female officers were finally able to take command of non-combat units. In 1980, women who served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) during WWII became eligible for veterans benefits. But many monumental changes have come much more recently, led by a few women who have made modern military history.
Rep Martha McSally
Before retiring from the Air Force, Col. McSally was the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat (1995) and first to command a fighter squadron in combat (2004). She was elected to Congress in 2014, and served until 2020.
Adm. Michelle Howard
Admiral Howard was the first African American woman to captain a naval ship (1999), first African American woman to lead a U.S. Navy battle group (2009), and the first female 4 star general in the Navy (2014). She retired in 2017.
Lt. Col. Caroline “Blaze” Jensen
Lt. Col. Jensen was the first female Air Force reservist to fly with the Thunderbirds (2011). She’s also the first female pilot to qualify on the T-7A Red Hawk (2021).
Vice Adm. Sandra Stosz
Vice Adm. Stosz became the first woman to lead a US military service academy in 2011.
Staff Sgt. Sarah Deckert-Perry
In 2014, SSgt Deckert-Perry became the first woman to win Armed Forces Chef of the Year.
Capt. Kristen Griest And Capt. Shaye Haver
Capt. Griest (right) was the first female to take command of an Army infantry unit (2016). Captain Griest, along with her classmate Captain Shaye Haver (left), were also the first women to graduate from Army Ranger School (2015).
Gen. Lori Robinson
General Robinson was once the highest-ranking woman in the military, and the first to lead a US combatant command. She took command of US Northern Command in 2016 and retired in 2018.
Chief Petty Officer Dominique Saavedra
Chief Petty Officer Saavedra was the first enlisted female sailor to earn her submarine qualifications (2016).
PFC Maria Daume
PFC Daume was the first female Marine to graduate from Infantry Training Battalion in the School of Infantry (2016).
2nd Lt. Mariah Klenke
2nd Lt. Klenke became the first female Marine officer to lead an assault amphibian vehicle platoon in 2017.
1st Lt. Marina Hierl
1st Lt. Hierl was the first female Marine to graduate from the Infantry Officer Course (2017). Her name was initially withheld, but she eventually identified herself.
Lt. Col. Michelle Macander
Lt. Col. Macander became the first female battalion commander of a Marine Ground Combat Unit in 2018.
For operational security and personal privacy, this soldier’s name has been withheld. However, following the graduation of the class, the Army stated that one woman made it through the training. She is the first female soldier to become a Green Beret (2020).
Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost
General Ovost will be the first woman to take command of a functional combatant command, and is currently the highest ranking female member of the military. President Biden nominated her for the position in March of 2021, in addition to nominating Army General Laura Richardson to lead US Southern Command.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of every female service member who has been a, “first.” Many of these accomplishments are too small to make headlines, so there probably will never be a complete account of every achievement for women. However, as time moves on, there will only be more opportunities for females to break barriers in the military; keeping a record of these accomplishments will help inspire a new generation of young girls to break records of their own.
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