California

A woman has never led a U.S. Army infantry division. Until now

Brigadier General Laura Yeager will become the first woman to command a U.S. Army infantry division this month.
Brigadier General Laura Yeager will become the first woman to command a U.S. Army infantry division this month. U.S. Army Joint Task Force North

Brigadier General Laura Yeager, who recently was stationed in Sacramento, will make history as the first woman to lead a U.S. Army infantry division later this month.

Yeager will take command of the 40th Infantry Division in the California National Guard from Maj. Gen. Mark Malanka, the division announced on Facebook. The ceremony will be held June 29 at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos. Since its founding in 1917, the 40th Infantry Division has deployed soldiers in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

Over the course of her 33-year military career, Yeager has made quite a few stops in Northern California, according to her military resume. She spent a number of years in Stockton in the 3rd Battalion of the 140th Aviation Regiment, working her way up to commander in 2006. Later, she became the chief of joint staff at the California Joint Force Headquarters in Sacramento in 2013.

Three years later, she became the director of joint staff at the headquarters before her promotion to brigadier general in March 2016.

That was when Yeager became the fourth female general in California National Guard history, taking over the Joint Task Force North at Fort Bliss, Texas.

“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,” Yeager said in a Department of Defense news release announcing her promotion.

“At the same time, I have been inspired by the incredibly strong and amazing women I have served with and for. Needless to say, I would not have achieved this rank without every one of them ...”

Though she began her career in the Army Medical Service Corps, she later took to the skies as a helicopter pilot.

“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 said in the release. “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.”

In 2011, she was deployed to Iraq with the California National Guard’s 40th Combat Aviation Brigade. There, she served as deputy commander and flew UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in combat, according to a Department of Defense news release announcing her promotion to brigadier general in 2016.

When she returned, she became commander of the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, a special achievement for her since her father, retired Maj. Gen. Robert Brandt, once commanded the same brigade, she said in the release.

Prior to her military career, she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Irvine, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Chapman University. She also earned a master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College.

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