Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011

Major General Margaret Woodward

There's nothing new about women in combat — but a woman commanding others in combat has been a far rarer sight. Then in March, Air Force Major General Margaret "Maggie" Woodward ran the opening 11 days of the war against Libya. (True, she ran just the air war, but that was pretty much the whole shooting match.) Her superiors and subordinates alike have given her good grades for her historic role. The Maryland native, 51, has spent almost 4,000 hours flying aerial tankers and other aircraft in her nearly 30-year career. She doesn't like to talk about her groundbreaking wartime mission, which she got as part of her current job as air boss for the U.S. Africa Command. She prefers, instead, to shift credit to the staff she has put together at her headquarters in Germany.

But fortune favors the ready. Woodward had been preparing to command the skies since she was young. That's when adults told her women couldn't fly for the U.S. military. The 1982 graduate of Arizona State University knew better. "It was just a matter of time, because I knew women would be successful, and they would prove that quickly," she says. "And they did."