Her promotion to lieutenant general confirmed, Jody Daniels has been cleared to take command of the Army Reserve, the first woman to do so in its 112-year history.
Daniels is the latest woman to break into the military’s senior ranks, which have historically been dominated by men. Fewer than one in four admirals and generals are women. A career intelligence officer, Daniels has been deployed to Iraq and holds a doctoral degree in computer science.
Like all the armed services, the Army has struggled to diversify its ranks, particularly its officer corps. Earlier this summer, Air Force Gen. Charles Brown was named the first Black service chief in history. Last week the Pentagon, partly in reaction to demands for equity following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a white police officer, announced that it would no longer use photos when making promotion decisions.
Barriers in the military for women, who make up about 16% of the active-duty force, have been coming down. In 2015, women became eligible to serve in combat roles. Last year, Maria Barrett and Paula Lodi, became the first sisters in Army history to reach the rank of general.
A few women have achieved senior command roles. Among them in recent years are Vice Adm. Robin Braun, who led the Navy Reserve, and Gen. Maryanne Miller, who was chief of the Air Force Reserve.
The Army Reserve ranks include soldiers who support combat units. Most of the Army’s units for civil affairs, psychological operations and medical specialties are in the Reserve. Reserve soldiers generally commit to serving 39 days per year, one weekend per month and two weeks of annual training. Recently, 3,000 Reserve soldiers supported COVID-19 response efforts across the country.
About one in five Army Reserve soldiers are women, the highest of any military component, said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a non-partisan think tank in Washington. As opportunity expands, more women will achieve senior rank.
“This is a reflection of women continuing to rise through the ranks and attain the highest level of the pyramid,” Cancian said.
Daniels’ ascent to chief of the Army Reserve comes as no surprise to Mark Quantock, a retired two-star Army officer and former top intelligence officer for Central Command. Quantock has known Daniels for years.
“She’s a terrific officer,” Quantock said. “Jody is smart, experienced, approachable and is a gifted leader. Really happy to see her break another glass ceiling as the Chief of the Army Reserve. She’ll be fantastic.”
Daniels’ military career has been a mix of active and Reserve duty. She describes herself as an “Army brat.” Her father retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers, a career that saw him deploy to Vietnam.
Daniels, 58 cited her late father as a mentor whom she and her three siblings referred to as Dad, not Sir. John Daniels listened to his children more than he talked.
“He was taking everything in and assimilating and synthesizing it,” Daniels said. “And then thinking about how he should respond. And I hope that I’ve taken on some of that.”
Daniels won an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with a degree in applied mathematics. She served active-duty and Reserve assignments, and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
As a soldier, Daniels served as director of intelligence when Gen. David Petraeus ran the training command for Iraqi security forces. As a civilian, Daniels directed advanced programs for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories. She focused there on spoken language and artificial intelligence.
Her husband, John McCarthy, 57, is a retired Army colonel who also specialized in intelligence. The two met while running with a group and have been married more than seven years.
Daniels academic and military experience and eagerness to listen and learn make her a good commander, McCarthy said.
“She’s intuitive. She’s a negotiator. And she just sops up information like nobody’s business,” McCarthy said. “And she’s a numbers’ gal.”
Daniels’ promotion and that of 1,000 other officers had been on hold until Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., released a hold on them last week. Duckworth wanted assurance that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified in President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing, would not be retaliated against. Vindman’s promotion was approved by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, but Vindman retired, citing bullying from Trump.
Ceremonies for her promotion and change of command, scheduled for July 28 at Fort Bragg, N.C., have been curtailed due the COVID-19 pandemic. But Daniels’ mother, Jean, a “seamstress extraordinaire” who has made more than 500 masks, will attend.
“We’ll make sure that she uses one and we keep her appropriately distance,” Daniels said.
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