WASHINGTON (AP) — Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost on Friday became only the second woman to lead one of the Pentagon’s 11 so-called combatant commands, the multi-service organizations that spearhead U.S. military operations around the world.
At a change-of-command ceremony at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin applauded Van Ovost’s historic rise to lead U.S. Transportation Command. He called her a “legend of a leader,” a pilot by training and a pivotal player in the airlift of tens of thousands of evacuees from Kabul in August. She helped orchestrate the airlift as commander of the Air Force Air Mobility Command.
“We need every Jackie Van Ovost we can get,” Austin, a retired Army general, said. “As she likes to say, ‘As young women looking up, it’s hard to be what you can’t see.’ So General Van Ovost knows the importance of breaking barriers.”
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, applauded Van Ovost’s depth of experience.
“There is not a single person out there who is more prepared to lead TransCom than Jackie Van Ovost,” he said.
Transportation Command is in charge of all aspects of global transportation for the military, including the movement of cargo and personnel by land, sea and air. Its 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland operates aircraft for government VIP travel, including Air Force One for the president.
Van Ovost, a 1988 graduate of the Air Force Academy and a former vice director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, took over Transportation Command for Army Gen. Stephen Lyons, who is retiring. The only other woman to lead a U.S. combatant command is Army Gen. Lori Robinson, now retired, who took charge of U.S. Northern Command in 2016. Army Gen. Laura Richardson is scheduled to take over U.S. Southern Command on Oct. 29, succeeding Navy Adm. Craig Faller.