Air Force General Jacqueline Van Ovost took over one of the Pentagon’s combatant commands on Friday.  She becomes only the second woman ever to lead a combatant command, the multi-service organization that spearheads U.S. military operations around the world.​

Gen. Van Ovost will now take over the military’s global transportation network, which reportedly led the evacuation of more than 124,000 people during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

During a change-of-command ceremony at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, Defense Secretary LLoyd Austin called Van Ovost “a legend of a leader” and said she was a pilot by training and played a pivotal role in the Afghanistan airlift of tens of thousands of evacuees from Kabul in August, where she aided as the head of Air Force Mobility Command.

“We need every Jackie Van Ovost we can get,” Austin, a retired Army General said. “As she likes to say, ‘as young women look up, it’s hard to be what you can’t see.’ So General Van Ovost knows the importance of breaking barriers.”

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, applauded Van Ovost’s depth of experience. “There is not a single person out here who is more prepared to lead TransCom, other than Jackie Ovost,” he said.

Van Ovost is a 1988 graduate of the Air Force Academy and the only four-star general in the U.S. military. She is also a former vice director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. She will be taking command and replacing Army Gen. Stephen Lyons, who is retiring.

Before Ovost, the first woman to lead a combatant command is retired Army Gen. Lori Robinson, who was the head of U.S. Northern Command in 2016.  

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