Photo: Courtesy of U.S. Air Force
Meet Air Force Major General Margaret Woodward, Joint Force Air Component Commander for Operation Odyssey Dawn.Woodward, the commander of the German-based 17th Air Force, is in charge of the U.S. airstrikes in Libya and the first woman in U.S. history to oversee an air campaign.
A refueling and mobility expert, Woodward’s normal role is commanding all U.S. Air Force operations in the Africa theatre, a position she has held since June. Her territory includes 53 countries, 11 million square miles and more than 900 million people.
Woodward has been in the Air Force since she graduated from Arizona State University in 1983. She has logged more than 3,800 flight hours, flying and commanding operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia.
Thomas Ricks notes, however, that Woodward’s historic role in Libya is somewhat accidental. The 17th is the air unit of U.S. Africa Command, whose mission is largely humanitarian. It’s unlikely anyone thought she’d be carrying out an air war on Qaddafi when she was assigned to AFRICOM in June.
Nonetheless, Woodward’s leadership illustrates how the Libya campaign is throwing gender stereotypes about war out the window. In a NYT column Tuesday, Maureen Dowd notes that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, national security aides Samantha Power and Gayle Smith, and – eventually – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were some of the more vocal supporters of the no-fly zone.
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