Ohioans among military women smashing glass ceilings
Military women are breaking the so-called glass ceiling in droves lately with many Ohio women among the military firsts, especially in recent years.
In honor of Women's History Month, here are several female military pioneers who are from Ohio.
Alene B. Duerk of Henry County was the first woman to be appointed Rear Admiral in the United States Navy in 1972.
M. Jean Madden of Columbus was the first Women's Army Corps officer from Ohio to achieve the rank of Colonel.
Sara Harper of Cleveland was the first woman appointed to the Marine Corps judiciary, co-founding the first Victims Right program in the country.
Nora Kendall Noble of Licking County was the first nurse to make transition from nurse corps to the line when she became base commander at Newark Air Force Base.
Kathryn D. Sullivan of Columbus was the first woman to walk in space while doing work aboard the Space Shuttle.
B. Gen. Deborah Ashenhurst (Ret.,) became the first female adjutant of the Ohio National Guard Bureau and now has just been appointed as the first woman director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services.
Gen.Janet C. Wolfenbarger (Ret.,) of Beavercreek was the U.S. Air Force's first female four-star general when she took over command of the Air Force Material Command at Wright-Patterson AFB in 2012.
B. Gen. Rebecca O'Connor became the first female brigadier general in the Ohio Air National Guard in October 2018.
Lt. Col. Maria E. Kelly became the first female brigade commander in the Ohio Army National Guard in 2010.
Col. Allison Miller became the first wing commander in the Ohio Air National Guard when she took command of the 179th Airlift Wing on February 2018.
Other female firsts:
Private Opha Mae Johnson was the first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1918. Initially, Johnson worked as a civil service employee at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington D.C., and later served in the office of the Quartermaster General of the Marine Corps. As a sergeant during World War I, she was the highest ranking woman in the USMC.
Women’s Army Corps (WAC): In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation that made the Women’s Army Corps officially part of the U.S. Army. Aside from nurses, WACs were the first women to serve in the Army and over 150,000 women served in the WAC during World War II, often as typists, clerks, medical technicians, and mechanics.
Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP): WASPs flew a variety of aircraft within the Army Air Forces during WWII. These women helped with a mass shortage of pilots in 1942 and were trained to fly military aircrafts so their male counterparts could fly in combat overseas. However, WASPS were not granted military status until the 1970s.
In 1975, Donna Tobias became the first woman to graduate from the Navy’s Deep Sea Diving School. In 2018, a diver locker at Naval Submarine Base New London in Connecticut was named "Tobias Hall" in honor.
Women of West Point: In 1980, the United States Military Academy saw its first class of women graduates. Making up 6.7 percent of their graduating class, 62 of the initial 119 female cadets graduated from West Point.
Lieutenant General Susan Helms (retired) became the first U.S. military woman in space in 1993. She received her commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1980 and served as an F-15 and F-16 weapons separation engineer and a flight test engineer. She was selected by NASA in 1990 and during her career flew on STS-54 (1993), STS-64 (1994), STS-78 (1996) and STS-101 (2000), and served aboard the International Space Station as a member of the Expedition-2 crew (2001). In total, she spent over 210 days in space.
Vice Admiral Vivien Crea (retired) was the first female vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and the first woman to reach the rank of vice admiral. She was also the first woman from any branch of service and the first Coast Guardsman to serve as Presidential Military Aide. Crea retired in 2009.
Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson became the first female deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 2017. FORSCOM is the largest command in the U.S. Army. In 2012, she became the first female deputy commanding general of a maneuver division.