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Two sisters become generals in US Army for the first time in history

Left: Then-Col. Maria Barrett, J-6 at U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Florida, gives a shoutout to her former unit. (Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Sarracino/U.S. Southern Command) / Right: Then-U.S. Army Col. Paula Lodi, left addresses members of Task Force Medical Role 3 during a visit to the 28th Combat Support Hospital near Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 8, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Erick Thronson)
September 06, 2019

Pairs of fathers and sons, brothers, and even couples that have worked their way up to a general’s rank, but there hasn’t been a pair of sister generals until now.

For the first time in the history of the U.S. Army, two sisters have attained general’s rank, USA Today reported Thursday.

Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and her younger sister Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi are “leadership junkies,” according to their brother Rus Lodi.

“Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi represent the best America has to offer,” said Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. “However, this comes as no surprise to those who have known them and loved them throughout this extraordinary journey. This is a proud moment for their families and for the Army.”

Barrett and Lodi’s father and role model, Ruston, was a veteran of World War II and a recipient of the Silver Star, though he hardly ever spoke about his service.

“They were two just beautiful girls growing up,” said their brother Rus. “Maria would do something academically that just blew us away, while Paula was doing something athletically, flipping off a diving board, before anybody else. They have just been a great source of pride and admiration our entire life.”

Barrett, who said she joined the military to pay for her school, said her parents stressed public service to her and her four siblings.

“Both of my parents were school teachers,” Barrett said. “When my mother started having children, she got out, but she continued to be active in the community. So I do think probably underlying everything is that service component to it.”

Per USA Today, the United States didn’t allow women in the military until 1901, when the Army Nursing Corps was established, and the women were limited in combat roles until opening all fields in 2015, under former President Barack Obama.

While there has been some controversy surrounding women’s role in the U.S. military, including reports of the U.S. Army lowering standards for women joining the elite Army Rangers, there have been many “firsts” for women in the Army the past few years as their roles have expanded.

Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley became the first enlisted female to graduate from Ranger school in August 2018.

Additionally, Air Force 1st Lt. Chelsey Hibsch became the first Air Force female Airman to earn an Army Ranger tab earlier this week, according to the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.

The latest first in the military history comes with the sisters’ achievement, and is a remarkable milestone for women in the military, said Melissa Dalton, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“For both men and women increasingly normalizing women in leadership positions matters,” Dalton said. “The fact that it comes from same family is an incredible accomplishment.”