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First Black Woman Promoted to Three-Star Army General

Nadja West's military career includes several historic firsts.

By Sheryl Estrada

Lt. Gen. Nadja West was formally promoted to three-star general in the United States Army on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Photos courtesy of Office of the Surgeon General/U.S. Army Medical Command.

Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West is a trailblazer in the U.S. Army health care system.

West, the Army's 44th (and first Black) surgeon general, will formally assume control of the U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) at Ft. Sam Houston's MacArthur Parade Field at 4 p.m. EST on Wednesday. (Click here to watch a live webcast.)

Acting Army Secretary Eric Fanning administered the oath of office to West on Dec. 11. With the appointment, West, 54, became the first Black woman in the Army to receive a third star. A ceremony took place on Tuesday to formalize her promotion. West is now the highest-ranking woman to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

The trailblazer also made history in 2013 as the first Black female two-star general in the Army Medical Department.

In her role as surgeon general, West provides advice and assistance to the Army secretary and chief of staff on all health care matters. She is responsible for development and overall management of an integrated Army-wide health system. Her responsibilities include formulating policy regulations on health service support and the establishment of health standards.

She oversees more than 48 medical treatment facilities providing care to almost 4 million active-duty members of all services, retirees and their family members. MEDCOM is composed of three regional health commands, the Medical Research and Materiel Command and Army Medical Department Center and School.

Prior to her current appointment, West served as the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon. She also had previous assignments as commanding general of Europe Regional Medical Command; commander of Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and division surgeon, 1st Armored Division, Army Europe and Seventh Army, Germany.

Lt. Gen. Nadja West repeats the Oath of Office while her husband, Donald, holds the Bible during her promotion ceremony.

The Washington, D.C., native completed high school at the Academy of the Holy Names in Silver Spring, Maryland. She earned a Bachelor of Science in engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a Doctorate of Medicine from George Washington University School of Medicine.

At the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference in 2013, Essence magazine and Southern Company honored West with the Armed Forces Medical Advocate Award. In her acceptance speech, she shared that she was adopted.

"I was once an orphan with an uncertain future," West said. "I am honored to be able to serve my country and its warriors."

West was adopted as an infant. Her father was a career soldier, joining the Army when it was still segregated. She and her siblings followed in his military footsteps. Her mother was active in the civil rights movement.

She is married to Donald West, a retired army colonel. They have two children, Sydney and Logan. Last year, when Logan was a senior at Gonzaga College High School in D.C., West was the guest speaker at the school's Black History Month assembly.

"The story of African Americans is a story of resilience and perseverance that traces a people who refused to accept the circumstances under which they arrived on American shores," West said. "And it chronicles the generation who fought for an America that truly reflects the ideals enshrined in our founding documents … I would not be alive and be here today if I did not understand and appreciate and also benefit from the impact that these men and women have had throughout our history. "

She also gave students leadership advice.

"In business and military, successful leaders have learned that diverse teams are more intelligent teams than ones that are composed of everyone that looks like, sounds like and thinks like themselves. Diverse teams bring different perspectives and experience that can lead to a broad range of ideas and solutions."

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UPDATE: A Father Posts Photo of His Little Girl Dressed Up as Serena Williams for 'Superhero Day' and Gets a Message from the Tennis Superstar

Chris Wright told DiversityInc that Williams "shows young Black women it's okay to be strong and have voice."


UPDATE: Sept. 30, 2018 at 8:40 a.m. ET

Chris Wright, who shared the photo on Twitter, told DiversityInc that the little girl is his 9-year-old daughter, Ameya.

Wright told DiversityInc on Sunday that Ameya dressed as Serena Williams during homecoming week at her elementary school in Cairo, Ga.

He said she is slowly starting to get into tennis.

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Wright, who coaches girls' basketball at Chattahoochee County Middle High School, said Williams "shows young Black women it's okay to be strong and have voice."

He added, "Our young Black girls need to see women in those positions. It lets them know they can do anything they put their minds to."

Wright said that when his mother picked up Ameya from school on Friday, she told her the news that Williams had sent her a message on Twitter.

"Ameya screamed multiple times," Wright said.


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Photo courtesy of Army Times

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