Of the 1.4 million people in the US armed forces, only 38 are active-duty four-star officers (generals and admirals who have reached the highest ranks in their military branches)—and only one of those is a woman.
Janet Wolfenbarger SM ’85, who earned her MIT degree in aeronautics and astronautics and serves in the Air Force, was promoted to four-star general in June. She became only the second female ever to earn the distinction in the US, after Army General Ann Dunwoody in 2008. Dunwoody retired this month.
In her military career, Wolfenbarger has always been a trailblazer for other women. She entered the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1976 as part of the first-ever class to admit women. At graduation four years later, she and 96 other women and 802 men earned bachelor’s degrees.
Now, at 53, Wolfenbarger serves as commander of the Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. She oversees Air Force weapons-development and logistics operations and is in charge of 83,000 civilian and military personnel.
The military is all in the family for Wolfenbarger. Her father was an Air Force pilot as is her husband. She has won numerous awards including the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
She and Dunwoody were interviewed together by Time magazine earlier this month—the first time the two had ever met. Watch the video highlights below.