Hidden within the pages of tales of heroism and valor in a field led predominantly by men lies a cadre of extraordinary women who have risen through the ranks, defying societal norms and challenging the status quo. From commanding major combatant commands to overseeing massive military operations, these women have repeatedly proven that their capabilities know no bounds. They have played crucial roles in the armed forces and paved the way for future generations, inspiring countless individuals with their unwavering dedication, courage, and exceptional leadership.

As gender equality in the US military continues to make significant strides, it becomes increasingly important to recognize and celebrate the remarkable achievements of these trailblazers. They have risen through the ranks, leaving an indelible mark on their respective branches and serving as beacons of inspiration for all who follow in their footsteps.

Today, we spotlight some of the highest-ranking women who have shattered glass ceilings and emerged as trailblazers in their respective branches.

General Jacqueline D. Van Ovost | US Air Force

Van Ovost, a career Air Force officer, currently serves as the 14th US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) commander. She made history in 2021 by becoming the first woman to lead one of the 11 unified Combatant Commands in the Department of Defense (DoD), which oversees the US military’s global transportation infrastructure and logistics support.

Before this, she served as the Air Mobility Command (AMC) commander from August 2020 to October 2021, succeeding another prominent woman general, Maryanne Miller (retired). For some time in early 2021, Van Ovost was the only active-duty female four-star general officer in the DoD—the fifth in Air Force history.

Gen. Van Ovost
Van Ovost flying a Boeing KC-46A Pegasus over Kansas on February 6, 2021. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

With a career spanning over 32 years, Van Ovost has excelled in various operational and training roles, showcasing her expertise and dedication to the service. Moreover, her extensive flight experience, which includes over 4,200 hours in more than 30 different aircraft, highlighted her versatility as a command pilot. Despite facing barriers and being told “no” to varying points in her career, she has risen to the highest echelons of military leadership, breaking down gender barriers and inspiring others along the way.

Her leadership exemplified the exceptional professionalism and expertise women bring to the highest levels of military command.

General Laura J. Richardson | US Army

Richardson became the first woman to lead the US Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), the largest Army command that provides expeditionary, regionally engaged, campaign-capable land forces to combatant commanders, in 2019. As the commanding general, she oversees approximately 800,000 soldiers and is crucial in maintaining the combat readiness of the Army’s conventional forces.