July 9, 2013
A general at the Judge Advocate General's Law Center and School in Charlottesville is making history.
Brigadier General Flora Darpino is the first woman to be nominated to become the Judge Advocate General of the Army.
"I think some would say, 238 years we've had lawyers in the Army, we've had a Judge Advocate General, and it's about time we have a woman at the top," said Fred Borch, JAG Regimental Historian & Archivist.
It's a promotion that comes with great power.
"You are the face of the JAG Corps, you are the leader of the JAG Corps, you are the senior legal representative -- uniformed representative -- advising the Army," said Colonel Randolph Swansiger.
General Darpino is currently Commander of the JAG's Legal Center and School. After her promotion, she will go from being a one-star general to three.
"It's a really big deal to be a general in the Army," said Borch. "There are 230 generals in the Army, and our Army is about 540,000 men and women. But of the 230 generals, only 51 wear three stars, and there are only a handful of those 51 who are women."
General Darpino says it was another high-ranking woman who served as an inspiration to her -- one-star Brigadier General Melinda Dunn. When General Dunn retired, she called up General Darpino to say she was handing over the reins.
"It's kind of humbling because I think of how wonderful she was, and I'm not sure why I would be the one who was selected as the first one," said General Darpino. "I think she was just as good and could have easily been the first."
But General Darpino's colleagues say her nomination is fitting.
"It's history in the making because she's the first female Judge Advocate General in the Army, but I would say the significance of this is really she was the right person for the job," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michele Nelson.
"What's great about the military is that it's a meritocracy," said Major Temidayo Anderson. "Her capability has been shown based on her record of excellence."
General Darpino is also the first directly commissioned Judge Advocate to reach the top.
"Many have had prior military experience, maybe they went to ROTC or they went to the academy or officer candidate school, but she's the first Judge Advocate General to come straight in from civilian life, so that's a big achievement, too," said Borch.
Though she's shattering two glass ceilings, General Darpino says it was never out of reach.
"People sometimes just need to see it happen to know it can be a reality," she said. "The door has never been shut before, but now that someone has walked through it, folks have the confidence that maybe they can walk through it, too."
General Darpino will begin her four-year term after her nomination is confirmed by the Senate.