DAYTON, Ohio — The Air Force's first female four-star general at Ohio's largest military base said the Air Force has embraced the importance of gender diversity, but more work needs to be done.
Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger told the Dayton Daily News the Air Force has made "substantial progress" in attracting women into the ranks during her 35-year career as a military officer.
The 56-year-old outgoing general was part of the first class of female cadets to enter the Air Force Academy. She will retire next month as head of Air Force Materiel Command, the largest employer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
In an interview Wednesday at AFMC headquarters, Wolfenbarger said she has "learned and grown from every opportunity that my Air Force has given me" and never had any aspiration to reach any particular rank.
"Never would have expected that I would make one-star, much less four," she said.
Wolfenbarger said that when she joined the Air Force, 10 percent of members were women. Now, women make up 19 percent of the active duty ranks.
"We're not done," Wolfenbarger said. "Twenty percent is not representative of demographics of this country and so we continue to embrace programs that will allow us to attract and retain women for our United States Air Force."
Sexual assault in the military has drawn professional and congressional scrutiny in recent years. The Air Force cited 1,350 sexual assault reports in fiscal year 2014 compared to 1,149 the year prior to that.
But Wolfenbarger said she believes the Air Force has done a lot to address the issue, including setting up a special victims counsel to provide legal aid to victims.
"We believe that what we have been able to accomplish to date has given victims, when actions do occur, more confidence that they will be taken care of and that the perpetrators will be held accountable," she said.