Thursday, February 18, 2010

Airforce Major General Jeanne Holm, Retired‏

Remember Our Heroes

As a 21-year-old in the summer of 1942, Jeanne Holm shouted louder than anyone in basic training. Nicknamed “Junior,” she was the youngest enlistee in the new Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, the first enlisted women recruited for World War II.

“I was five-foot-three, a little girl with a big voice who knew infantry drill as well as the men assigned to train us,” Holm says. “I blew their minds, so they made me the student company commander. The experience also helped later when I became an officer and a real company commander.”

She’d learned to drill in a civilian Women’s Ambulance Corps, where members learned first aid, convoy driving, motor transport drill, and engine maintenance.

“I took to the military like a duck to water,” says Holm. “I loved the camaraderie, but most of all, I was inspired by being able to serve my country.” Until then, the only women allowed to serve in the Army were nurses.

On Nov. 1, 1965, then Col. Jeanne M. Holm became the Director of Women in the Air Force. Later, she was the first woman in the armed forces to be promoted to the rank of major general in 1973, and is credited as single driving force in achieving parity for military women and making them a viable part of the mainstream military.

Holm was born in 1921, in Portland, Ore., and enlisted in the Army in July 1942, soon after the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps was established by Congress. She attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, and in January 1943 received a commission as a "third officer," the WAAC equivalent to second lieutenant.

During World War II, Holm was assigned to the Women's Army Corps Training Center at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., where she first commanded a basic training company and then a training regiment. At the end of the war, she commanded the 106th WAC Hospital Company at Newton D. Baker General Hospital, W.Va. She then left active military duty in 1946 and attended Lewis and Clark College for two years, returning in 1956 for her bachelor of arts degree.

In October 1948 during the Berlin crisis, she was recalled to active duty with the Army and went to Camp Lee, Va., as a company commander. The following year she transferred to the Air Force, when a new law integrated women in the regular armed forces, and was sent to Erding Air Depot, Germany.

Holm served in a variety of personnel assignments, including Director of Women in the Air Force from 1965-73. She played a significant role in eliminating restrictions on numbers of women serving in all ranks, expanding job and duty station assignments for women, opening ROTC and service academies to women, and changing the policies on the status of women in the armed forces. For her exceptionally meritorious service in this assignment; she was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

On March 1, 1973, General Holm was appointed director of the Secretary of the Air Force Personnel Council.

She was promoted to the grade of brigadier general July 16, 1971, the first woman to be appointed in this grade in the Air Force. She was promoted to the grade of major general effective June 1, 1973, with date of rank July 1, 1970, and was the first woman in the armed forces to serve in that grade.

After her retirement in 1975, she served as a Special Assistant on Women for President Ford and as a policy consultant for the Carter administration. She is the author of "Women in the Military, An Unfinished Revolution" (Presidio Press, 1986, revised edition, 1992)

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