Brigadier General Laura Yeager will make history this month, becoming the first woman to lead a United States Army infantry division.
A decorated helicopter pilot, General Yeager will take command of the 40th Infantry Division in the California National Guard, a unit that has been led by men for more than 100 years, The New York Times reports.
“Throughout my career, I have been mentored by many great officers and noncommissioned officers,” General Yeager told the Times. “They never once treated me differently because I was female, which is exactly how it should be and how I wanted to be treated.”
On June 29, in a ceremony in Los Alamitos, Calif., General Yeager will take command of the division from Major General Mark Malanka, who is retiring, according to the Times. The military unit was formed in September 1917 as the U.S. entered World War I, and has deployed soldiers in World War II, the Korean War, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
“My most important responsibility is ensuring my soldiers are ready to fight and win our nation’s wars, while also being prepared to serve the citizens of California during natural disasters,” General Yeager said.
While deployed in Iraq in 2011, General Yeager flew UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, then later commanded the California National Guard’s 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, which her father once helmed, the Times reported. In 2016, she became the fourth woman in the California National Guard to rise to the rank of general.
The representation of women in the armed services remains small, the Times reported, noting that in 2017, women made up 16 percent of active-duty military personnel across the armed services.
General Yeager’s promotion serves as inspiration for other women who hope to assume leadership roles in the military. “I heard someone say a long time ago that ‘you have to see it to be it,” she said. “I think there is truth to the idea it is easier to imagine yourself accomplishing a goal when you see someone that looks like you has succeeded.”