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Brig. Gen. Laura Yeager will make history June 29 as the first female officer to lead an Army infantry division when she takes command of the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division.
She’s a veteran Army helicopter pilot who served in Iraq with the California National Guard in 2011. Her new command would put her in charge of thousands of citizen soldiers on the West Coast.
Yeager’s military career began after being commissioned through Cal State-Long Beach’s ROTC program in 1986. She has served in a variety of aviation leadership roles in both the Texas and California National Guards since 1995, including commanding California’s 40th Combat Aviation Brigade.
Yeager was promoted to brigadier general in 2016, at the time making her only the fourth female general in the California National Guards’ history, according to a Defense Department press release about her promotion at the time.
Yeager’s rise comes as all of the branches have opened previously closed combat billets to women and the number of women who are breaking through as general or flag officers is rising.
Retired Army Gen. Ann Dunwoody became the military’s first female four-star general in 2008 and Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson became the first female four-star general to lead a combatant command in 2016.
Yeager’s command is a milestone because it places her in charge of Army ground combat units that until recently were open only to male soldiers. Her promotion was first reported by Connecting Vets, a CBS-affiliated network.
Last year, the military group Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) reported that across the services, there are now 63 women serving as either generals or admirals.
In the Army, two years after Yeager was commissioned, women made up only 1 percent of the Army’s general officers. As of 2018 they comprised 11 percent, according to SWAN.
Yeager’s father, retired California National Guard Maj. Gen. Robert Brandt, also served as a helicopter pilot and deployed twice to Vietnam. Yeager and her husband, Curtis, have four sons.
Yeager replaces Maj. Gen. Mark Malanka, who has commanded the 40th Infantry Division of the 17,000-member California National Guard since February 2017.
Yeager’s change of command ceremony will take place at Los Alamitos Air Field on Saturday, June 29, according to an announcement obtained by The Sacramento Bee.