"Firsts" and more of the Accomplishments of Military Women


Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Lillian E. Fishburne is the first African American female to be promoted to Admiral.

A Maryland native, Admiral Fishburne graduated from Lincoln University, Oxford, Pennsylvania in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and received a Masters of Arts in Management from Webster College, St. Louis, Missouri in 1980. RADM Fishburne was awarded a Masters of Science degree in Telecommunications Systems Management from the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California in 1982. Also, she is a 1993 graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Force, Fort McNair, Washington, D.C.

RADM Fishburne was commissioned an Ensign upon completion of Women Officers School at Newport, Rhode Island in February 1973. Her many duty assignments include Personnel and Legal Officer at the Naval Air Test Facility, Lakehurst, New Jersey, Navy Recruiting District, Miami, Florida, Officer in Charge of the Naval Telecommunications Center, Great Lakes, Illinois. Assistant Head, Joint Allied Command and Control Matters Branch, and Executive Officer, Naval Communication Station, Yokosuka, Japan. She was Commanding Officer, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station, Key West, Florida attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, then was assigned to the Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems Directorate, The Joint Staff, Washington, D.C., assuming the position as Chief, Command and Control Systems Support Division.

Next RADM Fishburne assumed command of Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station, Eastern Pacific, Wahiawa, Hawaii then served as the Director, Information Transfer Division for the Space, Information Warfare, Command and Control Directorate, Chief of Naval Operation, Washington, D.C. Admiral Fishburne was promoted to her current rank on 1 February 1998.

The First B-52 Bomber Crew Chief - Jean Buckley - Enlisted, Officer, and Confederate Colonel!

Jean Buckley arrived in March, 1973 at Chanute AFB, IL from Lackland AFB as part of the first women accepted for training in non-traditional AF aircraft maintenance fields. When she arrived, only 2 buildings were tagged WAF SQ Area! When she left 12 weeks later, women occupied almost one third of a new 1,000 man dormitory.

She was the first female to complete aircraft maintenance jet over 2 engine 5 level training requirements (431X1E), 7th OMS, Carswell AFB,TX in December 1974.

Jean Buckley was also the first woman qualified as Bomber Crew Chief to pull 7 day ALERTS November 1975 at Carswell. Total tours completed were 12 seven day tours in 8 months! She was the first woman to fly 2 missions on B-52D 5-50070 bomber as bomber crew chief, 5.3 CFIC flight & 8.2 CCTS; Nancy Dickerson, 1960's NBC news correspondent, flew a mission in Viet Nam on bomber, but as an observer.

Sgt Buckley also completed 51 hours from Texas Christian University at Carswell on Tuition Assistance for a degree before transferring to East Texas State University and Detachment #830 ROTC in January 1979. She obtained both a BS and MS.

She earned Confederate Colonel rank in Dallas-Fort Worth's Confederate Air Force Wing for assisting in 1977 Open House--was an active duty NCO in aircraft maintenance at the time participating in flight line support with Transient Alert for launch/recovery operations during air show.

Sergeant, subsequently Lt. Buckley, has been on 3 models of B-52s, B-52D/G/H. She worked enlisted on D's; commissioned Lieutenant on G's and was the first woman maintenance officer in a B-52 Reserve Unit, 93rd Bomb Squadron, which was the first B-52 Air Force Reserve Unit, Barksdale AFB, LA. 1993. Jean Buckley, Capt, USAFRC, Ret, is one of only a few women to have prior enlisted aircraft maintenance experience on Bombers' and as B-52 aircraft maintenance officer Captain Buckley retired as of 1 March 1999 proud to have set a precedent for women in aircraft maintenance for the larger bomber aircraft.

Bonnie Burnham Potter, M.D. Rear Admiral, Medical Corps, US Navy
is the first woman PHYSICIAN to become a flag officer in the military.
Admiral Potter became a one star Admiral in 1997, and a 2 star admiral in 2000.

A native of Piedmont, Calif., Rear Admiral Potter graduated from the University of California at Davis in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in Animal Science. Following completion of medical technology training, she attended graduate school at the University of California at Davis in Animal Physiology. She received her Doctor of Medicine degree from St. Louis University School of Medicine in 1975. Following her internship and residency in internal medicine at the Naval Regional Medical Center, Oakland, Calif., she was Chief Resident from 1978 to 1979 and remained there as a staff internist and Residency Training Officer until 1983.

Rear Adm. Potter served as Assistant Head, Internal Medicine Department, Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Va. from 1983 to 1987, where she was also the Command Intern Coordinator and Transitional Residency Program Director. In 1987, she transferred to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, F. Edward H*bert School of Medicine, Bethesda, Md., where she served as Medicine Clerkship Coordinator, and Physical Diagnosis Coordinator for National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md. From January 1989 to April 1993, she served at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda as Chairman and Program Director, Department of Internal Medicine. In August 1990 until April 1991, she deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield/Storm as Head, Medical Services, USNS Comfort (T-AH 20). From May 1993 to May 1995, Rear Adm. Potter was Deputy Commander and Director of Academic Affairs at Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Va. She served as Commanding Officer, Naval Hospital, Camp Pendleton, Calif. from June 1995 to January 1997.

Rear Adm. Potter became the Commander, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md. in July 1997. During her time as the Commander, she also served as the Chief, Medical Corps, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Washington, DC from April 1997 to September 1999 and as the Chairman, Region 1 TRICARE Executive Board (Lead Agent) from July 1998 to August 1999.

Rear Adm. Potter is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, with a certificate of Added Qualifications in Geriatrics. She holds faculty appointments at both the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and Georgetown University Schools of Medicine.

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Maj. General Mary Elizabeth Clarke

General Clarke was the LAST director of the Women's Army Corps before women were fully assimilated into the regular Army, the first woman to command a Federal military installation (Fort McClellan, Alabama - 1978-1981), (first female Commandant of the U.S. Army Military Police School) and the driving force behind building of the first Women' Army Corps Museum at Fort McClellan. The museum was disestablished in September 1999 and re-dedicated 11 May 2001 at Fort Lee, Virginia, home of one of the first WAAC training centers.

Mary Elizabeth Clarke entered the Army at age 20 and, in August 1945, attended the last World War II WAC basic training class at Fort Des Moines. In September 1949, she graduated from WAC OCS at Camp Lee. Her assignments into the 1960s included detachment commander, WAC recruiting, and staff positions in personnel and intelligence. After spending a year at the Office of Economic Opportunity, Washington, D.C. (1966), and two years as commander of the WAC Training Battalion (1967-1968), she was assigned to ODCSPER for three years . She then served as the WAC staff adviser at HQ, Sixth Army, until September 1972 when she assumed command of the WAC Center and WAC School. She was chief of the WAC Advisory Branch at the time of her selection as director of the WAC. General Clarke became director of the Women's Army Corps on 1 August 1975.

In 1978 the Army issued a general order abolishing the positions of the director and deputy director of the WAC and the Office of the Director, effective 20 April 1978. The ceremony was held on 28 April in the DOD press room at the Pentagon. Several members of Congress, three or four former directors of the WAC, members of the defense and Army staffs, and representatives of the news media attended. General Clarke spoke at the ceremony - "This action today in no way detracts from the service of WACs who have been pioneers-in fact it honors them. I view this action today as the culmination of everything the members of the Women's Army Corps have been striving for for thirty-six years. The significance of the abolishment of the Office of the Director . . . is the Army's public commitment."

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Promoted to major general on 1 November 1978, she served as post commander at Fort McClellan for 27 months. In August 1980, she was transferred back to the Pentagon to be the director of the Human Resources Development Directorate in ODCSPER. When she retired on 31 October 1981, after serving over thirty-six years on active duty, she selected Fort McClellan, the former home of the Women's Army Corps, as the site for her retirement ceremonies. As friends, family, former WAC comrades, and over 3,000 soldiers and civilians at Fort McClellan participated in her retirement parade, Assistant Secretary of the Army Harry N. Walters presented General Clarke with the Distinguished Service Medal. "I am," she told the gathering, "a fortunate soldier. I have the same love for the Army today as I had the first day I put on my uniform as a private at Fort Des Moines in 1945 . . . . I leave the Army today feeling that I have been all that I could be." The Army's recruiting theme, "Be All That You Can Be in the Army," never had a more appropriate representative.

Sources: Colonel Sonny Craven, Ret. MGen Clarke's last Chief of Public Affairs and Col. Bettie Morden's excellent history of the WAC which is newly available on line through the Center of Military History. WAC History 1942-1978

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Unless otherwise noted contents © 1996 to date by Captain Barbara A. Wilson, USAF (Ret)