After an undue postponement under former President Donald Trump, President Joe Biden has nominated four-star General Jacqueline Van Ovost to lead the Transportation Command. Van Ovost, 55, is a decorated Air Force general who started her career in 1988 and consistently rose the ranks over the next three decades. Now, she could make history as the first woman in the role. Here’s five facts you should know about General Van Ovost:
1. Van Ovost’s Promotion Was Postponed In 2020 By The Pentagon
But not because the Pentagon didn’t think she deserved it. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley revealed that they held off on endorsing Van Ovost and Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson because they were afraid Trump wouldn’t promote a woman.
“They were chosen because they were the best officers for the jobs, and I didn’t want their promotions derailed because someone in the Trump White House saw that I recommended them or thought DOD was playing politics,” Esper told The New York Times. “This was not the case. They were the best qualified. We were doing the right thing.” Esper said that they decided to wait until after the November 2020 election in the hopes that Van Ovost and Richardson could be nominated under the Biden administration. Trump fired Esper six days after the election.
2. She Will Lead The Military’s Transportation Command
The Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) manages the military’s global transportation network. The command is based out of Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. The department coordinates missions around the world using military and commercial transportation resources. It’s comprised of three commands: The Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, the Navy’s Military Sealift Command and the Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command. Van Ovost, an Air Force general, will lead them all.
3. She’s The Only Female Four-Star General
Van Ovost became the Defense Department’s only four-star female general in August 2020. She’s only the fifth female four-star general in Air Force history. Previously, the DoD’s only female four-star was Ovost’s predecessor, General Maryanne Miller, who retired in 2020. “Standing in the stadium, in 1988 at the Air Force Academy, about to throw my hat in the air, I never would have thought I [would become] a four-star,” Van Ovost told Air Force Magazine.
“I was very focused on being a pilot, and being the best pilot I could be, and to make a difference in that way,” she continued. “And here we are, standing at the precipice of what might be called a pinnacle of military leadership. But frankly, it’s not so much a pinnacle. For me, it’s a new beginning. It’s a new opportunity to ask key questions, to shape the force in a way to make sense, and provide clarity to the strategic environment that we live in.”
4. VP Kamala Harris Called Her A ‘Proven Leader’
“General Van Ovost and Lt. General Richardson have been tested under the most difficult circumstances, and they are proven leaders,” Harris said during their White House nominating ceremony on March 8, International Women’s Day. “The president and I have full confidence in them to address the complex threats we face, to help lead our troops, and to keep our nation safe.”
5. She Experienced Sexism In The Military
“Frankly, it’s quite lonely,” Van Ovost told TODAY‘s Savannah Guthrie on March 1. “When we opened combat aviation to women and I first walked into the flight room, I was accepted because the law now said that women could fly in combat. But when I sat at the table for briefs, I didn’t feel like my voice mattered, like they even cared about my perspective when it came to tactical maneuvering.”