Way back in 1971, when I was a young Air Force captain, I clearly remember a woman in my Service totally outranking me -- receiving her first star.
The woman was Brigadier General Jeanne M. Holm and I remember it clearly because Holm became the first female general in the Air Force -- a thing unheard of in those days. She would make history again a couple of years later when, in 1973 , she was promoted to the rank of major general, becoming the first woman in all of the Armed Forces to serve in that grade.
General Holm went on to serve as director of the Secretary of the Air Force Personnel Council before she retired from the Air Force in 1975. Holm, a native of Portland Oregon, died in 2010 at the age of 88 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
General Holm was a powerful force behind expanding career opportunities for and roles of women in the Air Force.
Her pioneering efforts have paid off. Today, 41 years after Holms broke through the "star barrier," we are seeing another first in the history of women in the Air Force as President Barack Obama nominates Air Force Lieutenant General Janet C. Wolfenbarger to become the Service's first woman four-star general. (The Army has had a female four-star general, Ann Dunwoody, since 2008).
Wolfenbarger presently serves as military deputy to the Air Force's assistant secretary for acquisitions where she directs research and development, testing, production and modernization of programs worth more than $40 billion a year. In her new capacity, Wolfenbarger will lead Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio -- the largest command in the Air Force with a yearly budget of $60 billion.
According to the Stars and Stripes, Pentagon officials praised Obama's selection:
"The secretary strongly supports the president's nomination, and he believes that General Wolfenbarger is an outstanding Air Force officer," Pentagon press secretary George Little told American Forces Press Service. "The fact that she would be the first woman to wear a fourth star in the Air Force, if confirmed, is a testament to her skills, experience and dedication."
You Have Come a Long Way, Ladies.