She's currently the only Black woman leading a state military. Here's how it happened

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Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead is Maryland’s 31st Adjutant General — the only Black woman to lead a state-level military in the U.S. Birckhead, pictured above, outlines plans for improving equity in the COVID-19 vaccination distribution during a press conference in Annapolis (Md.) in March 2021.

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Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead is Maryland’s 31st Adjutant General — the only Black woman to lead a state-level military in the U.S. Birckhead, above, outlines plans for improving equity in the COVID-19 vaccination distribution during a press conference in Annapolis (Md.) in March 2021.

Brian Witte/AP

When Janeen Birckhead applied to college, she and her mother explored every possible option to pay for her tuition. Birckhead never considered a military career. She had no idea that her application for a ROTC scholarship to Hampton University, Virginia would lead her to become the leader she is now. After I had the interview, I followed the steps and was awarded the scholarship. How could you refuse it? That was the beginning of my journey. Birckhead said to NPR that this was how her journey began. Birckhead is the only Black woman to have led a state’s military in the United States. She is responsible for 4,600 soldiers and their combat readiness.

“The Adjutant-General is the leader of Maryland’s Military and I am confident in Janeen’s ability to lead.” Moore, who announced her nomination, said that her record “proves her readiness to be the highest ranking military officer in Maryland.” From ROTC to thirty years of service

When Birckhead began her military career, Hampton’s ROTC, also known as the Pirate battalion, helped instill discipline, hard work and dedication. The pirate battalion leaders took pride in graduating the most promising future officers to the armed services. Birckhead said that this mentality helped shape her into the leader and commander she is today. It also helped her to navigate the various command roles she has been assigned during her service. Birckhead worked on the staff Moore’s Republican predecessor and former governor, Larry Hogan, before becoming adjutant-general. Larry Hogan. Birckhead, who was named by Hogan to lead the task force of over 14,000 soldiers that guarded the U.S. Capitol following the attack on Jan. 6, 2021. She led the Maryland National Guard security mission at President Biden’s inauguration. Later that year, the first operational vaccine equity Task Force in the United States was created. She distributed vaccines and visited local communities to determine who most needed vaccinations based on their demographics.

The push for greater representation in the military

In 2021, Brigadier-General Janeen Birckhead of the Maryland National Guard visits a woman in Wheaton, Md. as she receives a Moderna coronavirus vaccination.

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Maryland Guard Brigadier-General Janeen Birckhead meets with a woman in Wheaton, Md. in 2021 as she receives the Moderna coronavirus vaccination.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

She knows how rare it can be for someone of her caliber to reach the top. In 2021, fewer than one fifth of active duty Army officers were women. In the Marine Corps, only 9% of the officers were female. “

I’ve served in the military for 30 years. We still have the first, like, “first woman” or “first of this”. It’s very telling. The first is great. We want to say a second, a third, and a forth. Then we won’t need to mention the first. That’s the culture of our organization. Birckhead stated that this is where they want to be. Birkhead has often felt left out as a Black female in a culture that is dominated by males. “It’s very interesting when I walk into a meeting with my uniform on. The person will either address me or my assistant, or the other person with me who is not Black; they are clearly the leader. And that mental leap perception happens so many times,” Birckhead said.

Luckily, her team is adept at correcting those who make these mistakes. Her team is often called upon to let others know that she’s the leader they are looking for.

The challenges she faces and the goals she has set for herself

Birckhead knows that she is not new to challenges, and she expects to face more in her new position. She is also focused on the challenges of running an organization. She is also focusing on the challenges associated with running a successful organization.