Brigadier General Laura Yeager will be the first woman ever to command a U.S. Army Infantry Division.
The 40th Infantry Division announced in a Facebook post on June 7 that Yeager will be stepping up as their leader. She will assume command in a ceremony on June 29 at the Joint Forces Training Base, Los Alamitos, California. Yeager takes over for Major General Mark Malaka, who is set to retire.
Yeager has been in the military since 1986 and has an impressive list of accomplishments. She flew UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in combat in Iraq, and she commanded California National Guard’s 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, according to the Defense Department news service. She was promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General in 2016.
Her education is nothing to sneeze at either. Yeager studied psychology at UC Irvine for her undergrad and mastered in psychology at Chapman University. She also holds an MSS in strategic studies from United States Army War College.
Laura Yeager is married to retired Lt. Col. Curtis Yeager. They have four adult sons together.
The 40th Infantry Division was formed during World War I in 1917. Since then, the division’s troops have fought in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other key combatant command locations, Army Times reports.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Her Retired Military Father is One of Yeager’s Role Models
Laura Yeager’s father retired California National Guard Maj. Gen. Robert Brandt served two tours in Vietnam. He is also a helicopter pilot, and Yeager told the Defense Department news service in 2016 that she looks up to her father in military service and in life.
“My father has been a tremendous role model to me, both as a parent and as an officer and I have benefited immensely from his mentorship,” Yeager said. “He always had high expectations for me but I was given a lot of independence to pursue my own path.”
As for the retired Maj. Gen., he told DVIDS that he’s proud of the choices his daughter has made. “I could not be more proud of Laura for choosing a professional career in which she has devoted her life to the service of our nation,” he said.
2. Yeager Surprised Her Father When She Enlisted
Although Yeager always looked up to her father, he didn’t necessarily expect her to pursue a military career. She told USA Today, “I walked by one of those recruiting posters and said, ‘I can do that,’” Yeager said. “I think my father (retired Maj. Gen. Robert Brandt) was more surprised than anyone that I joined.”
Becoming a helicopter pilot just like her dad was also somewhat unexpected. “Though my dad was a pilot, I had never really considered becoming one myself, but once I decided to join the military, I wanted to do something that would be vastly different from anything I could do in a civilian occupation,” she told Defense Department news service. “Once I had a chance to fly in a helicopter as an ROTC cadet, I was hooked and became obsessed with going to flight school. To this day, the sound of a helicopter is music to my ears and I never get tired of being on one or even seeing one in flight.”
3. She Says Her Gender Has Never Been an Obstacle in Her Military Career
Although women are in the minority in the military, Yeager says that her experience in the service has been quite positive. She told DVIDS, “As a female, I have found the military to provide opportunities and benefits unmatched by any profession.”
“Clearly, females are in the minority within the military, yet in every assignment I have held, my mostly male peers, subordinates and superiors, have supported me, treated me with respect, coached, mentored and advised me. At the same time, I have been inspired by the incredibly strong and amazing women I have served with and for,” she said.
In fact, she told USA Today that she often forgets that she’s in the minority as a woman, especially in the higher ranks of military service. “Every once in a while, I’ll be in a meeting and will notice I’m the only woman in the room,” she said. “I realize, ‘Wow, there aren’t that many of us’.”
4. In 2017, Yeager Became the First Female Commander of Joint Task Force North
This isn’t Yeager’s first time making history. In 2017, she became the first woman to command Joint Task Force North. Joint Task Force North offers Department of Defense support and resources to the fight against drug trafficking and transnational criminal organizations.
At the time, Yeager told KFOX 14 that her educational background would help her be a leader with focus on service members and their families. “My education is in psychology and in counseling. So I’m very focused on the families. At the end of the day, we don’t get the mission done without the support of our families and the community,” she said.
Yeager also said that her gender could even be an asset in this leadership role. “I think that as women, we are used to juggling a lot of things in our lives. Trying to manage packing school lunches, doing homework with the kids, paying the bills and doing the job. So I think we bring an ability maybe to multitask to a job that maybe sometimes men lack,” she said.
5. Yeager Has a Reputation as a Strong Leader
Yeager’s colleagues are already speaking out in support of her new position. Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma told USA Today, “She’s been a battalion commander, a brigade commander and now a division commander. She’s earned it.”
He went on to say, “She’s an outstanding leader, and many of her subordinates who worked with her in the past are looking forward to working with her again.”
On the 40th Infantry Division Facebook page, folks who served with Yeager have been congratulating her on this next step in her career. “Congratulations, Ma’am. Proud to have served with you,” one veteran wrote.
“Congratulations General Yeager. Couldn’t go to a better person,” another user said.