Janet C. Wolfenbarger has been a Lieutenant General and vice commander of the US Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio since she was confirmed by the US Senate in 1999. She’s currently the highest-ranking female officer in the Air Force, and may soon become the highest ranking woman to ever serve in it. President Obama recently nominated her to be appointed to the rank of a four-star Air Force General, a position no other woman has ever held.
In the American armed forces, prospective generals are nominated by the President from a pool of eligible officers, usually under the advice of “their respective department secretary, service secretary, and if applicable the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” Then, the Senate must approve the nominee with a simple majority vote. (After some quick research, i.e., Googling, we were unable to figure out how often the Senate has disagreed with a given President and armed forces’ nominations.)
Wolfenbarger began her career in the Air Force as an engineer, and holds a Bachelors in engineering science as well as two Masters degrees in aeronautics and astronautics, and national resource strategy. In addition to her post at Wright-Patterson (which she inherited from the previous highest-ranking female officer in the Air Force, Lt. General Terry Gabreski), she is responsible for “research and development, test, production, and modernization of Air Force programs worth more than $40 billion annually.” She has also earned the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal.
Oh, and that Bachelor’s degree? According to GeekMom, Wolfenbarger earned it in 1980, the graduation year of the very first Air Force Academy class that allowed women.